Volkensin and ricin, either free or conjugated with colloidal gold, were injected into the cerebellar cortex of rats. The inferior olive and pontine nuclei were examined to verify the retrograde axonal transport of these two toxins, and the consequent neuronal damage. No evidence was obtained of a retrograde axonal transport of ricin in these pathways. Injection of gold-conjugated volkensin in the cerebellar cortex resulted in retrogradely labelled neurones in the inferior olive after 3 h, and in the pontine nuclei after 6 h. Degenerative changes were very severe in the retrogradely labelled neurones 48 h after the gold-conjugated volkensin injection. In the Nissl-stained material, neuronal degeneration started to be evident in the inferior olive 12 h, and in pontine nuclei 6 h, after volkensin injection. The neuronal degeneration in both the inferior olive and pons increased up to 4 days after the injection. These findings provide direct evidence of the retrograde axonal transport of volkensin in the cen tral nervous system, and the time course of the consequent degenerative changes in the afferents to the cerebellar cortex.
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