Cortical Brain Injury Causes Retrograde Degeneration of Afferent Basal Forebrain Cholinergic Neurons via the p75NTR

Srestha Dasgupta, Laura E. Montroull, Mansi A. Pandya, Juan P. Zanin, Wei Wang, Zhuhao Wu, Wilma J. Friedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) elicits neuronal loss at the site of injury and progressive neuronal loss in the penumbra. However, the consequences of TBI on afferent neurons projecting to the injured tissue from distal locations is unknown. Basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCNs) extend long projections to multiple brain regions including the cortex, regulate many cognitive functions, and are compromised in numerous neurodegenerative disorders. To determine the consequence of cortical injury on these afferent neurons, we used the fluid percussion injury model of traumatic brain injury and assessed the effects on BFCN survival and axon integrity in male and female mice. Survival or death of BF neurons can be regulated by neurotrophins or proneurotrophins, respectively. The injury elicited an induction of proNGF and proBDNF in the cortex and a loss of BFCNs ipsilateral to the injury compared with sham uninjured mice. The p75NTR knock-out mice did not show loss of BFCN neurons, indicating a retrograde degenerative effect of the cortical injury on the afferent BFCNs mediated through p75NTR. In contrast, locus ceruleus neurons, which also project throughout the cortex, were unaffected by the injury, suggesting specificity in retrograde degeneration after cortical TBI. Proneurotrophins (proNTs) provided directly to basal forebrain axons in microfluidic cultures triggered retrograde axonal degeneration and cell death, which did not occur in the absence of p75NTR. This study shows that after traumatic brain injury, proNTs induced in the injured cortex promote BFCN axonal degeneration and retrograde neuron loss through p75NTR.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberENEURO.0067-23.2023
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • TBI
  • axon degeneration
  • basal forebrain neurons
  • p75NTR
  • proneurotrophins


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