Neuronal degeneration in the gerbil brainstem is associated with spongiform lesions

Michael D. Mcginn, Brian T. Faddis

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15 Scopus citations


Spongiform lesions arise in dendrites and glia in the brainstem of domestic Mongolian gerbils. Most pronounced within the cochlear nucleus (CN), this disorder is dynamic and progressive; the lesions increase in number, size, and extent with age. It has not been clear whether these spongioid lesions either cause or are associated with significant neural degeneration. In contrast, fetal Mongolian gerbils (wild-trapped in Tuva) and their offspring show few spongiform lesions. The Tuvan gerbils provide an appropriate within-species control. We compared degeneration in the brainstem of domestic and Tuvan gerbils using the amino-cupricsilver (ACS) stain of de Olmos et al. [(1994) Neurotoxicol. Teratol., 16:545-561]. Positive histologic controls were provided by cerebellar stab wounds in domestic gerbils and by unilateral kainic acid injections into the CN of Tuvan gerbils. The ACS stain revealed extensive degeneration of axons, terminals, dendrites, and neurons in the brainstem of domestic gerbils. Neurodegeneration was most pronounced in the CN and was coextensive with spongiform lesions. Neurodegeneration was also seen in the trapezoid body, lateral lemniscus, and inferior colliculus, but was less pronounced than in the CN. The cerebellar stab wounds resulted in silver-stained Purkinje cells restricted to the stab wound local region. Kainic acid produced extensive neuronal and spongiform degeneration of the injected CN that was very similar to that spontaneously occurring in domestic gerbils. In contrast, the non-injected CN of Tuvan gerbils showed no neuronal or spongiform degeneration with the ACS stain. We conclude that, in domestic gerbils, the naturally occurring spongiform lesions of the CN and the accompanying neurodegeneration are both results of a common mechanism, most probably excitotoxic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-204
Number of pages18
JournalMicroscopy Research and Technique
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 1998


  • Auditory
  • Cochlear nucleus
  • Silver stain
  • Spongiform degeneration


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