Morphological alterations in dorsal root ganglion neurons and supporting cells of organotypic mouse spinal cord-ganglion cultures exposed to taxol

E. B. Masurovsky, E. R. Peterson, S. M. Crain, S. B. Horwitz

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65 Scopus citations


Expiants of 14-day fetal mouse spinal cord with attached dorsal root ganglia, which had become differentiated over 2-3 weeks in culture, were exposed to 1-2 μM taxol for up to 6 days. The culture medium was supplemented with nerve growth factor (300 units/ml) during exposure to the drug. By 3-6 days in taxol, unusually numerous microtubules were seen in peripheral perikaryal and proximal neuritic regions of ganglion neurons. Microtubules also engirdled massive aggregations of pleomorphic vesicular/cisternal elements in many neurons. These aggregates were visible as unusual 'clear' spheroidal regions in the living cells, and were often as large as the nuclei. Some of the elements comprising these striking vesicular/cisternal accumulations appeared to be portions of disrupted Golgi complexes normally polarized around the cytocentrum, as well as hypertrophied smooth endoplasmic reticulum formations. In other neuronal areas, Golgi complexes and other organelles were altered or disrupted to lesser degrees. Ordered microtubular arrays occurred along endoplasmic reticulum cisternae both in neuron somata and neurites. Over time, a plethora of microtubules assembled throughout the perikarya in various orientations apparently unrelated to microtubule organizing centers. Unlike the effects of other plant alkaloids that interact with tubulin, there was no discernible increase in filaments, although their distribution appeared altered. Concentric ordered microtubular-macromolecular lamellated complexes were seen only in neurites. Neuronal nuclei were misshapen, often displaced, and displayed fine structure reminiscent of chromatolysis. Satellite and Schwann cells contained atypically abundant microtubules, abnormal cisternae, disrupted Golgi complexes, and increased lysosomes. Some nuclei displayed abnormal chromatin, and in rare cases even microtubules. We suggest that taxol alters the distribution, integrity, and/or organization of organelle systems in dorsal root ganglion cells by engendering unusually abundant microtubules in abnormal groupings and aberrant locations in these cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-509
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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