The mammalian central nervous system (CNS) is composed of multiple cellular elements, making it challenging to segregate one particular cell type to study their gene expression profile. For instance, as motor neurons represent only 5-10% of the total cell population of the spinal cord, meaningful transcriptional analysis on these neurons is almost impossible to achieve from homogenized spinal cord tissue. A major challenge faced by scientists is to obtain good quality RNA from small amounts of starting material. In this paper, we used Laser Capture Microdissection (LCM) techniques to identify and isolate spinal cord motor neurons. The present analysis revealed that perfusion with paraformaldehyde (PFA) does not alter RNA quality. RNA integrity numbers (RINs) of tissue samples from rubrospinal tract (RST)-transected, intact spinal cord or from whole spinal cord homogenate were all above 8, which indicates intact, high-quality RNA. Levels of mRNA for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) or for its tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB) were not affected by rubrospinal tract (RST) transection, a surgical procedure that deprive motor neurons from one of their main supraspinal input. The isolation of pure populations of neurons with LCM techniques allows for robust transcriptional characterization that cannot be achieved with spinal cord homogenates. Such preparations of pure population of motor neurons will provide valuable tools to advance our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying spinal cord injury and neuromuscular diseases. In the near future, LCM techniques might be instrumental to the success of gene therapy for these debilitating conditions. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Laser capture microdissection (LCM)
- Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
- Tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB)
- Motor neurons
- Rubrospinal tract (RST)
- Spinal cord
- Gene expression