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Neural insult during development results in recovery outcomes that vary dependent upon the system under investigation. Nerve regeneration does not occur if the rat gustatory chorda tympani nerve is sectioned (CTX) during neonatal (≤P10) development. It is unclear how chorda tympani soma and terminal fields are affected after neonatal CTX. The current study determined the impact of neonatal CTX on chorda tympani neurons and brainstem gustatory terminal fields. To assess terminal field volume in the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS), rats received CTX at P5 or P10 followed by chorda tympani label, or glossopharyngeal (GL) and greater superficial petrosal (GSP) label as adults. In another group of animals, terminal field volumes and numbers of chorda tympani neurons in the geniculate ganglion (GG) were determined by labeling the chorda tympani with DiI at the time of CTX in neonatal (P5) and adult (P50) rats. There was a greater loss of chorda tympani neurons following P5 CTX compared to adult denervation. Chorda tympani terminal field volume was dramatically reduced 50 days after P5 or P10 CTX. Lack of nerve regeneration after neonatal CTX is not caused by ganglion cell death alone, as approximately 30% of chorda tympani neurons survived into adulthood. Although the total field volume of intact gustatory nerves was not altered, the GSP volume and GSP-GL overlap increased in the dorsal NTS after CTX at P5, but not P10, demonstrating age-dependent plasticity. Our findings indicate that the developing gustatory system is highly plastic and simultaneously vulnerable to injury.


© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of IBRO.

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