Severed adult neurones, which are capable of regrowth, encounter different microenvironments from those encountered during development. Moreover, adult neurones may respond in a different manner from developing neurones to the same environmental cues. Thus, the recovery of the integrative and transmission capabilities (which depend on the neuronal architecture, passive and active membrane properties, and synaptic receptor distribution) by a regenerating adult neurone may not be complete. In the present review, we examine several aspects of the outcome of the interaction between the microenvironment and regrowing neurones using the cockroach giant interneurones (GINs) as a model system. We demonstrate that whereas extrinsic cues govern the morphological redifferentiation and distribution of synaptic receptors, the distribution of voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels is to a large extent determined by intrinsic factors. The pathway of regrowth and the architecture of regenerating GINs were studied by examination of intracellularly stained fibres. The environments provided by the connectives and ganglia are different. The elongating sprouts in the connective appeared as smooth cylinders. Within the ganglionic domain, the main longitudinal sprouts emitted neurites which extended and branched into the neuropile. The local cues for branching of neurites were eliminated by freezing and thawing of the ganglia prior to the arrival of the growing tips. The failure to extend neurites under these conditions is attributed to the elimination of extrinsic signals for morphological redifferentiation of the fibres, since the same fibres emit neurites in anterior ganglia which have not been subjected to freezing and thawing. The distribution of acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) on the GINs was mapped by ionophoretic application of ACh. In both the intact and regenerating GINs receptors were located only on the neurites. Freezing and thawing of a ganglion eliminated the local signals for insertion and/or activation of AChRs on the neurites. Thus, both the morphological redifferentiation and the distribution of AChRs are affected by the microenvironment. Voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels were detected after intracellular injection of tetraethylammonium into the GIN and in the presence of tetrodotoxin (TTX) and Ba2+ in the extracellular space. The regrowing axon tips always revealed large barium action potentials independent of the CNS microenvironment. This observation is consistent with the hypothesis that Ca2+ plays an important role in the growth process. However, increased Ba2+ responsiveness was also observed in axonal segments proximal to the region of neuronal extension.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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