Mild musculoskeletal and locomotor alterations in adult rats with white matter injury following prenatal ischemia


Maxime Delcour, Michael Russier, Dong L. Xin, Vicky S. Massicotte, Mary F. Barbe and Jacques-Olivier Coq


Early brain injury including white matter damage (WMD) appears strongly correlated to perinatal hypoxia-ischemia and adverse neurological outcomes in preterm survivors. Indeed, WMD has been widely associated with subtle to major motor disturbances, sensory, behavioral and cognitive impairments in preterm infants who afterward develop cerebral palsy (CP). Prenatal ischemia (PI) has been shown to reproduce the main features of WMD observed in preterm infants. The present study was aimed at determining in adult rats the impact of PI on brain axons, musculoskeletal histology and locomotor activity. PI was induced by unilateral intrauterine artery ligation at E17 in pregnant rats. We found axonal degeneration and reactive astrogliosis in several white matter regions of adult PI rats. We found mild myopathic and secondary joint changes, including increased variability in myofiber size in several hind limb muscles, decreased myofibers numbers but increased Pax 7 cells and myofiber size in the gastrocnemius, and mild knee and ankle chondromalacia. Although treadmill locomotion appeared normal, several kinematic parameters, such as stride length, amplitude, velocity and leg joint angles were altered in adult PI rats compared to shams. Using intra- and inter-group variability of kinematic parameters, PI seemed to impair the maturation of locomotion on the treadmill. In addition, PI rats exhibited spontaneous hyperactivity in open-field test. Musculoskeletal changes appeared concomitant with mild impairments in gait and posture. Our rodent model of WMD based on PI reproduces the mild motor deficits and musculoskeletal changes observed in many preterm infants with a perinatal history of hypoxia-ischemia, and contributes towards a better understanding of the interplay between brain injury, musculoskeletal histopathology and gait disturbances encountered subsequently.