We have developed a model of autonomic nervous system aging using the mouse superior cervical sympathetic ganglion (SCG) which is characterized by the reproducible development of distinctive, markedly-enlarged neuritic swellings (vacuolar neuritic dystrophy, VND). These structures contained an admixture of lucent vacuoles and subcellular organelles, and involved both presynaptic and postsynaptic ganglionic elements. Quantitation of the frequency of VND was accomplished at the light microscopic level and validated by ultrastructural examination. VND lesions were 30-100-fold more frequent in the aged mouse paravertebral SCG than in the prevertebral celiac/superior roesenteric (C/SMG) sympathetic ganglia. Although VND was identified in all ages of mice examined, the number of lesions increased significantly with age. The frequency of VND was a function of the strain of mouse examined with a 40-fold difference in VND frequency between C57BL6 mice, the least involved strain, and the DBA/2J strain, which was most affected and began to develop significant numbers of lesions at an early age. As in our human studies of aging in the sympathetic nervous system, there was a prominent gender effect with males developing twofold greater numbers of VND lesions than females. Mice maintained on a significant calorie restricted diet for 30 months developed 70% fewer lesions than ad libitum-fed, age and sex matched controls. The aging mouse SCG, therefore, represents a robust animal model with reproducible, quantifiable and unambiguous neuropathology. Insights into pathogenetic mechanisms gained in the subsequent analysis of this relatively simple peripheral sympathetic nervous system model may contribute to the understanding of some of the most complex and significant problems involving higher function.
- Mouse strain
- Neuroaxonal dystrophy