In recent work, we have demonstrated that testosterone propionate accelerates recovery from facial nerve injury in the adult male hamster. Central synaptic stripping following peripheral motor neuron damage is a well-established component of the injury response. Gonadal steroids regulate synaptogenesis in the normal nervous system. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that testosterone propionate administration at the time of facial nerve transection alters the synaptic connectivity of injured facial motoneurons. Adult hamsters were subjected to right facial nerve transection at the level of the stylomastoid foramen. Half the animals received subcutaneous implants of testosterone propionate; the other half were sham implanted. At 5 days postoperative, the animals were killed by intracardiac perfusion-fixation, and the control and axotomized facial nuclear groups from the brainstems of nonhormone- and testosterone propionate-treated animals processed for routine transmission electron microscopy. Quantiative analysis of the synaptic ratio (percent somal membrane covered by synaptic profiles) and the average length of axosomatic synapses was accomplished. The results indicate that axotomy alone resulted in an 81% reduction in the synaptic ratio and a 26% decrease in the average synaptic length of axosomatic synapses. Exposure to testosterone propionate from the time of facial nerve transection resulted in only a 48% reduction in the synaptic ratio and a 16%, decrease in the average synaptic length of axosomatic synapses following injury. Thus, testosterone propionate significantly attenuated the amount of synaptic stripping that occurred at 5 days postoperative and the decrease in average length of the remaining synapses as well. It is concluded that gonadal steroids modulate central synaptic plasticity following peripheral nerve injury. The results are discussed in light of our recent findings of steroidal effects on the central astrocyctic response to facial nerve injury as well.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology