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Developmental white matter damage is a brain pathology associated with several long-term neurological disorders. An inflammatory insult has been suggested as the major instigating event. This study investigated the relative influence of inflammation, blood-brain barrier permeability and glial ontogeny in white matter damage. Systemic inflammation was induced in Monodelphis domestica (opossum) by serial intraperitoneal injections of lipopolysaccharide at different stages of brain development. Volume of white matter was estimated for the external capsule. Blood-brain barrier permeability was assessed immunocytochemically. Quantitative RT-PCR was used to measure relative levels of mRNA for IL-1beta, IL-6 and COX-2. Developmental changes in numbers and appearance of microglia and astrocytes were estimated. Results showed that in response to systemic inflammation, white matter was reduced in the external capsule during a circumscribed period only. At the same developmental stage blood-brain barrier permeability was altered, cerebral inflammatory response was present and numbers of microglia increased. However, the periods of altered blood-brain barrier permeability and the cerebral inflammatory response were longer than the period of the external capsule's susceptibility to white matter damage, which coincided with the developmental increase in the number of astrocytes in this tract. Thus, the mechanism of white matter damage following systemic inflammation is multifactorial, including cerebral inflammation and breakdown of brain barriers occurring simultaneously at specific stages of glial cell development.

Original publication




Journal article


Neurosci Lett

Publication Date





232 - 236


Animals, Astrocytes, Blood-Brain Barrier, Brain, Cell Differentiation, Cerebral Palsy, Cyclooxygenase 2, Disease Models, Animal, Encephalitis, Female, Gliosis, Interleukin-1beta, Interleukin-6, Microglia, Monodelphis, Nerve Fibers, Myelinated, Neural Pathways, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Complications, Infectious, RNA, Messenger, Wallerian Degeneration