A reliable method for demonstrating axonal degeneration shortly after axotomy

F. Gallyas, J. R. Wolff, H. Böttcher, L. Záborszky

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58 Scopus citations


A method has been elaborated by which degenerating axons can be selectively impregnated with silver. Based on a reconsideration of the physicochemical mechanisms of the degeneration methods it takes advantage of physical developers over the chemical ones. The staining procedure is applied to frozen sections of brains fixed with formol. It consists of 6 steps: (1) pretreatment with alkaline hydroxylamine, (2) washing in acetic acid, (3) impregnation in silver nitrate in the presence of ferric ions, (4) washing in citric acid, (5) physical development, and (6) washing in acetic acid. By electron microscopy silver precipitates by this method are almost entirely restricted to the cytoplasm of dense, degenerating axons, sparing mitochondria and myelin sheaths. No special expertise is required to achieve reproducible results. Large numbers of sections treated simultaneously, and large sections, can be stained uniformly. Light microscopic criteria are described which help diagnose the source of possible failures. Low background staining allows dark field illumination and television image analysis to be applied. The method works at survival times of only 3 to 5 days after axotomy. Hence, degenerating axons and axon terminals can be stained in alternating sections from the same brain using this method and another being described separately, which, using different conditions, demonstrates degenerating axon terminals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-297
Number of pages7
JournalBiotechnic and Histochemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1980
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Histology
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


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