The impact of euthanasia and enucleation on mouse corneal epithelial axon density and nerve terminal morphology

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Ocular Surface








Axon density; Cornea; Enucleation; Euthanasia; Mouse


© 2020 The Authors Introduction: Here we study the impact of using either CO2 gas or cervical dislocation (CD) for euthanasia and using different techniques to enucleate the eye on preserving axonal density and morphology of the intraepithelial corneal nerves (ICNs). Objectives: To determine whether using CO2 gas or CD for euthanasia and enucleating by cutting or pulling eyes out impacts axon density and nerve terminal morphology in the mouse cornea. Methods: Mice were euthanized by CO2 gas or CD; the impact of delaying fixation for 5 min post-euthanasia was also assessed. We tested two different techniques to enucleate the eyes: cutting the optic nerve by curved scissors or pulling the eye out. A minimum of 10 corneas from 5 male and female BALB/c mice were used for each variable. Axons and intraepithelial corneal nerve terminals (ICNTs) were visualized utilizing βIII tubulin and L1CAM and quantified using confocal microscopy. Results: The variations seen in axon density between individual mice are not gender- or euthanasia-dependent. A significant reduction in axon density and loss of ICNT morphology are observed in eyes enucleated by pulling the optic nerve out. Similar results are obtained in male and female mice. Conclusion: While the variations tested in euthanasia do not affect axon density in male and female mouse corneas, enucleation by proptosing and gently cutting out the eyes yields increased axon density and improved ICNT morphology compared to pulling eyes out and leaving the optic nerve attached.