Microelectrode arrays implanted in the brain are increasingly used for the research and treatment of intractable neurological disease. However, local neuronal loss and glial encapsulation are known to interfere with effective integration and communication between implanted devices and brain tissue, where these observations are typically based on assessments of broad neuronal and astroglial markers. However, both neurons and astrocytes comprise heterogeneous cellular populations that can be further divided into subclasses based on unique functional and morphological characteristics. In this study, we investigated whether or not device insertion causes alterations in specific subtypes of these cells. We assessed the expression of both excitatory and inhibitory markers of neurotransmission (vesicular glutamate and GABA transporters, VGLUT1 and VGAT, respectively) surrounding single-shank "Michigan"-style microelectrode arrays implanted in the motor cortex of adult rats using quantitative immunohistochemistry. We found a pronounced shift from significantly elevated VGLUT1 within the initial days following implantation to relatively heightened VGAT by the end of the 4-week observation period. Unexpectedly, we observed VGAT positivity in a subset of reactive astrocytes during the first week of implantation, indicating heterogeneity in early-responding encapsulating glial cells. We coupled our VGLUT1 data with the evaluation of a second marker of excitatory neurons (CamKiiα); the results closely paralleled each other and underscored a progression from initially heightened to subsequently weakened excitatory tone in the neural tissue proximal to the implanted electrode interface (within 40 microns). Our results provide new evidence for subtype-specific remodeling surrounding brain implants which inform observations of suboptimal integration and performance.
- Synaptic markers
- Reactive glia
- Copyright © 2017, Journal of Neurophysiology