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immune response to injury, and are implicated in facilitating neural plasticity. The rodent gustatory system is highly plastic, particularly during development, and outcomes following nerve injury are more severe in developing animals. The mechanisms underlying developmental plasticity in the taste system are largely unknown, making microglia an attractive candidate. To better elucidate microglia’s role in the taste system, we examined these cells in the rostral nucleus of the solitary tract (rNTS) during normal development and following transection of the chorda tympani taste nerve (CTX). Rats aged 5, 10, 25, or 50 days received unilateral CTX or no surgery and were sacrificed four days later. Brain tissue was stained for Iba1 or CD68, and both the density and morphology of microglia were assessed on the intact and transected sides of the rNTS. We found that the intact rNTS of neonatal rats (9–14 days) shows a high density of microglia, most of which appear reactive. By 29 days of age, microglia density significantly decreased to levels not significantly different from adults and microglia morphology had matured, with most cells appearing ramified. CD68-negative microglia density increased following CTX and was most pronounced for juvenile and adult rats. Our results show that microglia density is highest during times of normal gustatory afferent pruning. Furthermore, the quantity of the microglia response is higher in the mature system than in neonates. These findings link increased microglia presence with instances of normal developmental and injury induced alterations in the rNTS.


© 2017 Andrew J. Riquier and Suzanne I. Sollars. Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of IBRO. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license ( nd/4.0/).


Funded by the University of Nebraska at Omaha Open Access Fund