Optic nerve regeneration after intravitreal peripheral nerve implants: trajectories of axons regrowing through the optic chiasm into the optic tracts.

M Berry, J Carlile, A Hunter, W Tsang, P Rosenstiel, P Rosustrel, J Sievers
Year of publication:
Journal title abbreviated:
J. Neurocytol.
Journal title long:
Journal of neurocytology
We have studied axon regeneration through the optic chiasm of adult rats 30 days after prechiasmatic intracranial optic nerve crush and serial intravitreal sciatic nerve grafting on day 0 and 14 post-lesion. The experiments comprised three groups of treated rats and three groups of controls. All treated animals received intravitreal grafts either into the left eye after both left sided (unilateral) and bilateral optic nerve transection, or into both eyes after bilateral optic nerve transection. Control eyes were all sham grafted on day 0 and 14 post-lesion, and the optic nerves either unlesioned, or crushed unilaterally or bilaterally. No regeneration through the chiasm was seen in any of the lesioned control optic nerves. In all experimental groups, large numbers of axons regenerated across the optic nerve lesions ipsilateral to the grafted eyes, traversed the short distal segment of the optic nerve and invaded the chiasm without deflection. Regeneration was correlated with the absence of the mesodermal components in the scar. In all cases, axon regrowth through the chiasm appeared to establish a major crossed and a minor uncrossed projection into both optic tracts, with some aberrant growth into the contralateral optic nerve. Axons preferentially regenerated within the degenerating trajectories from their own eye, through fragmented myelin and axonal debris, and reactive astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, microglia and macrophages. In bilaterally lesioned animals, no regeneration was detected in the optic nerve of the unimplanted eye. Although astrocytes became reactive and their processes proliferated, the architecture of their intrafascicular processes was little perturbed after optic nerve transection within either the distal optic nerve segment or the chiasm. The re-establishment of a comparatively normal pattern of passage through the chiasm by regenerating axons in the adult might therefore be organised by this relatively immutable scaffold of astrocyte processes. Binocular interactions between regenerating axons from both nerves (after bilateral optic nerve transection and intravitreal grafting), and between regenerating axons and the intact transchiasmatic projections from the unlesioned eye (after unilateral optic nerve lesions and after ipsilateral grafting) may not be important in establishing the divergent trajectories, since regenerating axons behave similarly in the presence and absence of an intact projection from the other eye.