Distribution of sodium channels in chronically demyelinated spinal cord axons: immuno-ultrastructural localization and electrophysiological observations

J. A. Black, P. Felts, K. J. Smith, J. D. Kocsis, S. G. Waxman

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76 Citations (Scopus)


The immuno-ultrastructural localization of voltage-sensitive sodium channels was demonstrated within a central demyelinating lesion induced in the rat spinal cord by ethidium bromide/irradiation using polyclonal antibody 7493. Antibody 7493 has previously been shown to immunostain intensely axon membrane at nodes of Ranvier, and also perinodal astrocyte processes. At 25-35 days post injection/irradiation, the central portion of the demyelinating lesion is populated with chronically demyelinated axons and there is an absence of glial processes. Sodum channel immunoreactivity was not observed on the chronically demyelinated axolemma within this central portion of the lesion. Within the peripheral portion of the lesion demyelinated axons were occasionally abutted by astrocyte and Schwann cell processes. At these focal sites of apposition, the axon membrane displayed intense sodium channel immunoreactivity, while the abutting astrocyte and Schwann cell processes did not exhibit immunostaining. Also in the periphery of the lesion, some axons become ensheathed and myelinated by oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells. The axon membrane of circumferentially ensheathed axons displayed antibody 7493 immunostaining, and this immunoreactivity persisted on the axolemma until the ensheathing cytoplasmic processes compacted into myelin. Internodal axon membrane beneath the myelin sheath did not display sodium channel immunoreactivity, though (putative) developing nodal axon membrane adjacent to terminal paranodal loops exhibited robust sodium channel staining. Electrophysiological recordings within the ethidium bromide/irradiation lesion demonstrated that at least some axons conducted action potentials within the lesion, while others exhibited conduction block. These results indicate that there is a reorganization of sodium channels within the axon membrane of chronically demyelinated central axons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-70
Number of pages12
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 1991


  • Action potential
  • Demyelination
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Impulse conduction
  • Membrane structure
  • Sodium channel
  • Spinal cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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