Ultrastructure of degenerative changes following ricin application to feline dental pulps

Michael A. Henry, Lesnick E. Westrum, Lonnie R. Johnson, Robert C. Canfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


The ultrastructure of degenerative changes within the ipsilateral trigeminal ganglion, and partes caudalis and interpolaris of the spinal trigeminal nucleus in the cat is described following the application of the potent toxin ricin to the tooth pulps of unilateral maxillary and mandibular posterior teeth, including the cuspids. Survival times ranged from 6 to 10 days. Typical changes identified within the ipsilateral trigeminal ganglion included myelin fragmentation and 'compartmentalization' of the axoplasm of medium-sized myelinated axons, while small myelinated and unmyelinated axons underwent a more variable response ranging from electron-lucent to electron-dense changes. The affected cell body was characterized by the presence of swollen, electron-lucent mitochondria, a reduction of cytoplasmic ribosomes and a filamentous hyperplasia. Other changes often included an eccentric nucleus and satellite cell proliferation. Degenerative changes often occurred in isolated elements surrounded by normal profiles, suggesting specificity of ricin within the trigeminal ganglion. Changes within brainstem axons showed both an electron-dense and a lucent, fragmenting type of axonal alteration. Terminal changes ranged from electron-dense to lucent and also included filamentous hyperplasia and 'hyperglycogenesis'. The altered axonal knobs contained round synaptic vesicles that were presynaptic to dendritic profiles and postsynaptic to terminals containing flattened synaptic vesicles. The above brainstem alterations were identified specifically in the following areas: ventrolateral, medial and dorsomedial pars interpolaris; the ventrolateral and mid-dorsal to dorsomedial areas of the marginalis and outer substantia gelatinosa layers of pars caudalis; and in ventral pockets corresponding to lamina V of the medullary dorsal horn. Dense alterations within terminals containing flattened synaptic vesicles that are typically presynaptic to primary afferents in these areas were rare findings, but along with vacuolization of dendritic profiles suggest a trans-synaptic effect possibly due to the exocytosis of ricin. The results are discussed in relation to different reports of dental projections and with regards to patterns of transganglionic degeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)601-611
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurocytology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology

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