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Ultrastructural responses of the hypoglossal nucleus to the presence in the tongue of botulinum toxin, a quantitative study

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The ultrastructural effects of local injection of botulinum toxin into the left half of the tongue of the rat, were studied quantitatively 35 days postoperatively in the left hypoglossal nucleus.

The results showed (1) a decrease in somatic and neuropil bouton numbers because of loss of boutons with symmetrical synapses and clear spherical synaptic vesicles, (2) a decrease in the numbers of dendrite profiles in the neuropil, (3) an increase in the proportion of dendrites and boutons with unusual inclusions, suggestive of profile retraction, (4) an increase in the proportion of profiles which were unusually electron-dense, (5) an increase in the amount of astrocyte, and a growth of astrocyte sheaths around bouton-free neurone surfaces, (6) the presence of occasional microglia, and (7) subastrocytic subsurface cisterns.

Control rats injected with boiled toxin had no responses except (3) and (4) above, and then only to a modest extent, possibly due to mechanical damage of a few axons or terminals at the time of injection, or to insufficient inactivation of the toxin by boiling.

The results were compared with those at 35 days after axotomy, and it was concluded that botulinum toxin, which interrupts neuromuscular transmission, elicits the same responses in the hypoglossal neurones, as does transection of the hypoglossal nerve, even though earlier studies had discovered no glial replication after botulinum toxin, in contrast to axotomy.

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Sumner, B.E.H. Ultrastructural responses of the hypoglossal nucleus to the presence in the tongue of botulinum toxin, a quantitative study. Exp Brain Res 30, 313–321 (1977). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00237258

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Key words

  • Rat
  • Hypoglossal nucleus
  • Botulinum toxin
  • Ultrastructure