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Evidence of the Primary Afferent Tracts Undergoing Neurodegeneration in Horses With Equine Degenerative Myeloencephalopathy Based on Calretinin Immunohistochemical Localization.

  • Author(s): Finno, CJ;
  • Valberg, SJ;
  • Shivers, J;
  • D'Almeida, E;
  • Armién, AG
  • et al.

Equine degenerative myeloencephalopathy (EDM) is characterized by a symmetric general proprioceptive ataxia in young horses, and is likely underdiagnosed for 2 reasons: first, clinical signs overlap those of cervical vertebral compressive myelopathy; second, histologic lesions--including axonal spheroids in specific tracts of the somatosensory and motor systems--may be subtle. The purpose of this study was (1) to utilize immunohistochemical (IHC) markers to trace axons in the spinocuneocerebellar, dorsal column-medial lemniscal, and dorsospinocerebellar tracts in healthy horses and (2) to determine the IHC staining characteristics of the neurons and degenerated axons along the somatosensory tracts in EDM-affected horses. Examination of brain, spinal cord, and nerves was performed on 2 age-matched control horses, 3 EDM-affected horses, and 2 age-matched disease-control horses via IHC for calbindin, vesicular glutamate transporter 2, parvalbumin, calretinin, glutamic acid decarboxylase, and glial fibrillary acidic protein. Primary afferent axons of the spinocuneocerebellar, dorsal column-medial lemniscal, and dorsospinocerebellar tracts were successfully traced with calretinin. Calretinin-positive cell bodies were identified in a subset of neurons in the dorsal root ganglia, suggesting that calretinin IHC could be used to trace axonal projections from these cell bodies. Calretinin-immunoreactive spheroids were present in EDM-affected horses within the nuclei cuneatus medialis, cuneatus lateralis, and thoracicus. Neurons within those nuclei were calretinin negative. Cell bodies of degenerated axons in EDM-affected horses are likely located in the dorsal root ganglia. These findings support the role of sensory axonal degeneration in the pathogenesis of EDM and provide a method to highlight tracts with axonal spheroids to aid in the diagnosis of this neurodegenerative disease.

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