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Publication Date



UM campus only

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Neuroscience (Medicine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

John R. Bethea

Second Committee Member

Michael D. Norenberg

Third Committee Member

Robert W. Keane

Fourth Committee Member

Vance P. Lemmon

Fifth Committee Member

Michael S. Beattie


Spinal cord injury (SCI) often results in irreversible paralysis and widespread oligodendrocyte death and white matter damage. While the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are poorly understood, previous studies from our laboratory indicate that inhibition of astroglial-NF-κB activation reduces white matter damage and improves functional recovery in a mouse model of SCI. Here we provide novel evidence demonstrating that astrocytes directly regulate oligodendrocyte fate after trauma by a glutamate-mediated AMPA receptor dependent mechanism. Following trauma, elevated expression of the SLC39a10 zinc transporter correlated with an increase in zinc uptake by astrocytes, thereby reducing extracellular zinc concentrations required for AMPA receptor inhibition. Stimulation of AMPA receptors on oligodendrocytes by glutamate induced oligodendrocyte toxicity through the activation of the NADPH oxidase enzyme within oligodendrocytes. Genetic and pharmacological inhibition of active NADPH oxidase was sufficient to attenuate oligodendrocyte death in vitro. Following SCI, NADPH oxidase inhibition reduced oligodendrocyte death by ~75%, suggesting that glutamate-mediated oligodendrocyte death is dependent on the activation of the NADPH oxidase enzyme within oligodendrocytes. Combined treatment of the NADPH oxidase inhibitor apocynin and the AMPA receptor inhibitor NBQX significantly improved hind limb locomotor behavior, reduced white matter damage and lesion volume, and significantly spared descending serotonergic fibers. These studies provide a novel mechanism of oligodendrocyte death and may lead to clinically relevant therapeutics after SCI.


Oligodendrocyte; NADPH oxidase; zinc; astrocyte; spinal cord injury; excitotoxicity