Reduction of axonal transport in the rat optic system after direct application of methylmercury

Michael Aschner, Patricia M. Rodier, Jacob N. Finkelstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Fast axonal transport of proteins in the optic nerve and tract was quantified by scintillation counts of protein-bound radioactivity along the visual pathway after an intraocular injection of [3H]proline. In control rats the label traveled at a rate of about 60 mm/day, reaching the optic chiasm at 4 h and the lateral geniculate body at 8 h postinjection. When methylmercury was injected simultaneously with [3H]proline, the label traveled at a rate of about 30 mm/day. At 8 h postinjection, the labeled protein had reached the optic chiasm, but the more distal pathway was unlabeled. The same pattern was observed histologically by emulsion autoradiography of the pathway. Some label was detected in the lateral geniculate of methylmercury-treated animals at 8 h, but this may have resulted from local incorporation, as judged by a similar level of labeling in the contralateral visual pathway. Alternatively, it may be the case that a small fraction of the axons in the treated pathway continued to transport proteins in a normal fashion. The very heavy label observed throughout the pathway in controls was present only in the proximal half of the pathway in methylmercury-treated rats. Methylmercury signficantly reduced incorporation of [3H]proline in the rat retina, but this reduction was not as great as the effect in the optic nerve. In contrast, cycloheximide, a potent protein synthesis inhibitor, reduced labeled protein in the optic nerve only to the same extent as it reduced incorporation. These results suggest that methylmercury's effect on transport is not dependent solely on its effects on protein synthesis, but represents a separate mechanism of neurotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-250
Number of pages7
JournalBrain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 3 1986
Externally publishedYes


  • autoradiography
  • axonal transport
  • methylmercury
  • rat
  • scintillation spectrometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology

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