An axotomy is the cutting or otherwise severing of an axon. Derived from axo- (=axon) and -tomy (=surgery). This type of denervation is often used in experimental studies on neuronal physiology and neuronal death or survival as a method to better understand nervous system diseases.
Axotomy may cause neuronal cell death, especially in embryonic or neonatal animals, as this is the period in which neurons are dependent on their targets for the supply of survival factors. In mature animals, where survival factors are derived locally or via autocrine loops, axotomy of peripheral neurons and motoneurons can lead to a robust regenerative response without any neuronal death. In both cases, autophagy is observed to markedly increase. Autophagy could either clear the way for neuronal degeneration or it could be a medium for cell destruction.