Two-Photon Imaging during Prolonged Middle Cerebral Artery Occlusion in Mice Reveals Recovery of Dendritic Structure after Reperfusion

Abstract Filament occlusion of the middle cerebral artery (MCA) is a well accepted animal model of focal ischemia. Advantages of the model are relatively long occlusion times and a large penumbra region that simulates aspects of human stroke. Here, we use two-photon and confocal microscopy in combination with regional measurement of blood flow using laser speckle to assess the spatial relationship between the borders of the MCA ischemic territory and loss of dendrite structure, as well as the effect of reperfusion on dendritic damage in adult YFP (yellow fluorescent protein) and GFP (green fluorescent protein) C57BL/6 transgenic mice with fluorescent (predominantly layer 5) neurons. By examining the spatial extent of dendritic damage, we determined that 60 min of MCA occlusion produced a core with severe structural damage that did not recover after reperfusion (begins ∼3.8 mm lateral to midline), a reversibly damaged area up to 0.6 mm medial to the core that recovered after reperfusion (penumbra), and a relatively structurally intact area (∼1 mm wide; medial penumbra) with hypoperfusion. Loss of structure was preceded by a single ischemic depolarization 122.1 ± 10.2 s after occlusion onset. Reperfusion of animals after 60 min of ischemia was not associated with exacerbation of damage (reperfusion injury) and resulted in a significant restoration of blebbed dendritic structure, but only within ∼0.6 mm lateral of the dendritic damage structural border. In summary, we find that recovery of dendritic structure can occur after reperfusion after even 60 min of ischemia, but is likely restricted to a relatively small penumbra region with partial blood flow or oxygenation.