Morphological and functional study of cerebral aging in rat

Balietti, Marta (2009) Morphological and functional study of cerebral aging in rat, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Neurofisiologia, 21 Ciclo.
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Aging is a physiological process characterized by a progressive decline of the “cellular homeostatic reserve”, refereed as the capability to respond suitably to exogenous and endogenous stressful stimuli. Due to their high energetic requests and post-mitotic nature, neurons are peculiarly susceptible to this phenomenon. However, the aged brain maintains a certain level of adaptive capacities and if properly stimulated may warrant a considerable functional recovery. Aim of the present research was to verify the plastic potentialities of the aging brain of rats subjected to two kind of exogenous stimuli: A) the replacement of the standard diet with a ketogenic regimen (the change forces the brain to use ketone bodies (KB) in alternative to glucose to satisfy the energetic needs) and B) a behavioural task able to induce the formation of inhibitory avoidance memory. A) Fifteen male Wistar rats of 19 months of age were divided into three groups (average body weight pair-matched), and fed for 8 weeks with different dietary regimens: i) diet containing 10% medium chain triglycerides (MCT); ii) diet containing 20% MCT; iii) standard commercial chow. Five young (5 months of age) and five old (26-27 months of age) animals fed with the standard diet were used as further controls. The following morphological parameters reflecting synaptic plasticity were evaluated in the stratum moleculare of the hippocampal CA1 region (SM CA1), in the outer molecular layer of the hippocampal dentate gyrus (OML DG), and in the granule cell layer of the cerebellar cortex (GCL-CCx): average area (S), numeric density (Nvs), and surface density (Sv) of synapses, and average volume (V), numeric density (Nvm), and volume density (Vv) of synaptic mitochondria. Moreover, succinic dehydrogenase (SDH) activity was cytochemically determined in Purkinje cells (PC) and V, Nvm, Vv, and cytochemical precipitate area/mitochondrial area (R) of SDH-positive mitochondria were evaluated. In SM CA1, MCT-KDs induced the early appearance of the morphological patterns typical of old animals: higher S and V, and lower Nvs and Nvm. On the contrary, in OML DG, Sv and Vv of MCT-KDs-fed rats were higher (as a result of higher Nvs and Nvm) vs. controls; these modifications are known to improve synaptic function and metabolic supply. The opposite effects of MCT-KDs might reflect the different susceptibility of these brain regions to the aging processes: OML DG is less vulnerable than SM CA1, and the reactivation of ketone bodies uptake and catabolism might occur more efficiently in this region, allowing the exploitation of their peculiar metabolic properties. In GCL-CCx, the results described a new scenario in comparison to that found in the hippocampal formation: 10%MCT-KD induced the early appearance of senescent patterns (decreased Nvs and Nvm; increased V), whereas 20%MCT-KD caused no changes. Since GCL-CCx is more vulnerable to age than DG, and less than CA1, these data further support the hypothesis that MCT-KDs effects in the aging brain critically depend on neuronal vulnerability to age, besides MCT percentage. Regarding PC, it was decided to evaluate only the metabolic effect of the dietetic regimen (20%MCT-KD) characterized by less side effects. KD counteracted age-related decrease in numeric density of SDH-positive mitochondria, and enhanced their energetic efficiency (R was significantly higher in MCT-KD-fed rats vs. all the controls). Since it is well known that Purkinje and dentate gyrus cells are less vulnerable to aging than CA1 neurons, these results corroborate our previous hypothesis. In conclusion, the A) experimental line provides the first evidence that morphological and functional parameters reflecting synaptic plasticity and mitochondrial metabolic competence may be modulated by MCT-KDs in the pre-senescent central nervous system, and that the effects may be heterogeneous in different brain regions. MCT-KDs seem to supply high energy metabolic intermediates and to be beneficial (“anti-aging”) for those neurons that maintain the capability to exploit them. This implies risks but also promising potentialities for the therapeutic use of these diets during aging B) Morphological parameters of synapses and synaptic mitochondria in SM CA1 were investigated in old (26-27 month-old) female Wistar rats following a single trial inhibitory avoidance task. In this memory protocol animals learn to avoid a dark compartment in which they received a mild, inescapable foot-shock. Rats were tested 3 and 6 or 9 hours after the training, divided into good and bad responders according to their performance (retention times above or below 100 s, respectively) and immediately sacrificed. Nvs, S, Sv, Nvm, V, and Vv were evaluated. In the good responder group, the numeric density of synapses and mitochondria was significantly higher and the average mitochondrial volume was significantly smaller 9 hours vs. 6 hours after the training. No significant differences were observed among bad responders. Thus, better performances in passive avoidance memory task are correlated with more efficient plastic remodeling of synaptic contacts and mitochondria in hippocampal CA1. These findings indicate that maintenance of synaptic plastic reactivity during aging is a critical requirement for preserving long-term memory consolidation.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Balietti, Marta
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze mediche e chirurgiche cliniche
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
neuronal plasticity, synapses, mitochondria, declarative memory, dietetic approach
Data di discussione
25 Maggio 2009

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