Cytidine-5-diphosphocholine (CDP-choline or citicholine) is an essential molecule that is required for biosynthesis of cell membranes. In adult humans it is used as a memory-enhancing drug for treatment of age-related dementia and cerebrovascular conditions. However the effect of CDP-choline on perinatal brain is not known. We administered CDP-choline to Long Evans rats each day from conception (maternal ingestion) to postnatal day 60 (P60). Pyramidal neurons from supragranular layers 2/3, granular layer 4 and infragranular layer 5 of somatosensory cortex were examined with Golgi-Cox staining at P240. CDP-choline treatment significantly increased length and branch points of apical and basal dendrites. Sholl analysis shows that the complexity of apical and basal dendrites of neurons is maximal in layers 2/3 and layer 5. In layer 4 significant increases were seen in basilar dendritic arborization. CDP-choline did not increase the number of primary basal dendrites on neurons in the somatosensory cortex. Primary cultures from somatosensory cortex were treated with CDP-choline to test its effect on neuronal survival. CDP-choline treatment neither enhanced the survival of neurons in culture nor increased the number of neurites. However significant increases in neurite length, branch points and total area occupied by the neurons were observed. We conclude that exogenous supplementation of CDP-choline during development causes stable changes in neuronal morphology. Significant increase in dendritic growth and branching of pyramidal neurons from the somatosensory cortex resulted in enlarging the surface area occupied by the neurons which we speculate will augment processing of sensory information.
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