Cell proliferation and death in the brain of active and hibernating frogs

Silvia Cerri, Giovanni Bottiroli, Maria Grazia Bottone, Sergio Barni, Graziella Bernocchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


'Binomial' cell proliferation and cell death have been studied in only a few non-mammalian vertebrates, such as fish. We thought it of interest to map cell proliferation/apoptosis in the brain of the frog ( Rana esculenta L.) as this animal species undergoes, during the annual cycle, physiological events that could be associated with central nervous system damage. Therefore, we compared the active period and the deep underground hibernation of the frog. Using western blot analysis for proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), we revealed a positive 36.kDa band in all samples and found higher optical density values in the hibernating frogs than in active frogs. In both active and hibernating frogs, we found regional differences in PCNA-immunoreactive cells and terminal transferase dUTP nick-end labelling apoptotic cells in the ventricular zones and parenchyma areas of the main encephalon subdivisions. During the active period of the frogs, the highest concentration of PCNA-immunoreactive cells was found in the ventricle dorsal zone of the cerebral hemispheres but only some of the cells were apoptotic. By contrast, the tectal and cerebellar ventricular zones had a small or medium amount of PCNA-immunoreactive cells, respectively, and a higher number of apoptotic cells. During hibernation, an increased PCNA-immunoreactive cell number was observed in both the brain ventricles and parenchyma compared with active frogs. This increase was primarily evident in the lateral ventricles, a region known to be a proliferation 'hot spot'. Although differences existed among the brain areas, a general increase of apoptotic cell death was found in hibernating frogs, with the highest number of apoptotic cells being detected in the parenchyma of the cerebral hemispheres and optic tectum. In particular, the increased number of apoptotic cells in the hibernating frogs compared with active frogs in the parenchyma of these brain areas occurred when cell proliferation was higher in the corresponding ventricular zones. We suggest that the high number of dying cells found in the parenchymal regions of hibernating frogs might provide the stimulus for the ventricular zones to proliferate. Hibernating frogs could utilize an increased cell proliferation in the brain areas as a neuroprotective strategy to face cell death and the onset of neurological damages. Therefore, the hibernator promises to be a valuable model for studying the mechanisms naturally carried out by the central nervous system in order to adapt itself or survive adverse conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-131
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Apoptosis
  • Cell proliferation
  • Frog brain
  • Hibernation and activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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