Combined chondroitinase and KLF7 expression reduce net retraction of sensory and CST axons from sites of spinal injury.
ABSTRACT: Axon regeneration in the central nervous system is limited both by inhibitory extracellular cues and by an intrinsically low capacity for axon growth in some CNS populations. Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs) are well-studied inhibitors of axon growth in the CNS, and degradation of CSPGs by chondroitinase has been shown to improve the extension of injured axons. Alternatively, axon growth can be improved by targeting the neuron-intrinsic growth capacity through forced expression of regeneration-associated transcription factors. For example, a transcriptionally active chimera of Krüppel-like Factor 7 (KLF7) and a VP16 domain improves axon growth when expressed in corticospinal tract neurons. Here we tested the hypothesis that combined expression of chondroitinase and VP16-KLF7 would lead to further improvements in axon growth after spinal injury. Chondroitinase was expressed by viral transduction of cells in the spinal cord, while VP16-KLF7 was virally expressed in sensory neurons of the dorsal root ganglia or corticospinal tract (CST) neurons. After transection of the dorsal columns, both chondroitinase and VP16-KLF7 increased the proximity of severed sensory axons to the injury site. Similarly, after complete crush injuries, VP16-KLF7 expression increased the approach of CST axons to the injury site. In neither paradigm however, did single or combined treatment with chondroitinase or VP16-KLF7 enable regenerative growth distal to the injury. These results substantiate a role for CSPG inhibition and low KLF7 activity in determining the net retraction of axons from sites of spinal injury, while suggesting that additional factors act to limit a full regenerative response.
Project description:Axon regeneration in the central nervous system normally fails, in part because of a developmental decline in the intrinsic ability of CNS projection neurons to extend axons. Members of the KLF family of transcription factors regulate regenerative potential in developing CNS neurons. Expression of one family member, KLF7, is down-regulated developmentally, and overexpression of KLF7 in cortical neurons in vitro promotes axonal growth. To circumvent difficulties in achieving high neuronal expression of exogenous KLF7, we created a chimera with the VP16 transactivation domain, which displayed enhanced neuronal expression compared with the native protein while maintaining transcriptional activation and growth promotion in vitro. Overexpression of VP16-KLF7 overcame the developmental loss of regenerative ability in cortical slice cultures. Adult corticospinal tract (CST) neurons failed to up-regulate KLF7 in response to axon injury, and overexpression of VP16-KLF7 in vivo promoted both sprouting and regenerative axon growth in the CST of adult mice. These findings identify a unique means of promoting CST axon regeneration in vivo by reengineering a developmentally down-regulated, growth-promoting transcription factor.
Project description:The adult CNS is an inhibitory environment for axon outgrowth, severely limiting recovery from traumatic injury. This limitation is due, in part, to endogenous axon regeneration inhibitors (ARIs) that accumulate at CNS injury sites. ARIs include myelin-associated glycoprotein, Nogo, oligodendrocyte-myelin glycoprotein, and chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs). Some ARIs bind to specific receptors on the axon growth cone to halt outgrowth. Reversing or blocking the actions of ARIs may promote recovery after CNS injury. We report that treatment with sialidase, an enzyme that cleaves one class of axonal receptors for myelin-associated glycoprotein, enhances spinal axon outgrowth into implanted peripheral nerve grafts in a rat model of brachial plexus avulsion, a traumatic injury in which nerve roots are torn from the spinal cord. Repair using peripheral nerve grafts is a promising restorative surgical treatment in humans, although functional improvement remains limited. To model brachial plexus avulsion in the rat, C8 nerve roots were cut flush to the spinal cord and a peroneal nerve graft was inserted into the lateral spinal cord at the lesion site. Infusion of Clostridium perfringens sialidase to the injury site markedly increased the number of spinal axons that grew into the graft (2.6-fold). Chondroitinase ABC, an enzyme that cleaves a different ARI (CSPGs), also enhanced axon outgrowth in this model. In contrast, phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C, which cleaves oligodendrocyte-myelin glycoprotein and Nogo receptors, was without benefit. Molecular therapies targeting sialoglycoconjugates and CSPGs may aid functional recovery after brachial plexus avulsion or other nervous system injuries and diseases.
Project description:Failure of axon regeneration in the mammalian CNS is attributable in part to the presence of various inhibitory molecules, including myelin-associated proteins and proteoglycans enriched in glial scars. Here, we evaluate whether axon guidance molecules also regulate regenerative growth after injury in adulthood. Wnts are a large family of axon guidance molecules that can attract ascending axons and repel descending axons along the length of the developing spinal cord. Their expression (all 19 Wnts) is not detectable in normal adult spinal cord by in situ hybridization. However, three of them are clearly reinduced after spinal cord injury. Wnt1 and Wnt5a, encoding potent repellents of the descending corticospinal tract (CST) axons, were robustly and acutely induced broadly in the spinal cord gray matter after unilateral hemisection. Ryk, the conserved repulsive Wnt receptor, was also induced in the lesion area, and Ryk immunoreactivity was found on the lesioned CST axons. Wnt4, which attracts ascending sensory axons in development, was acutely induced in areas closer to the lesion than Wnt1 and Wnt5a. Injection of function-blocking Ryk antibodies into the dorsal bilateral hemisectioned spinal cord either prevented the retraction of CST axons or promoted their regrowth but clearly enhanced the sprouting of CST collateral branches around and beyond the injury site. Therefore, repulsive Wnt signaling may be a cause of cortical spinal tract axon retraction and inhibits axon sprouting after injury.
Project description:Axotomized neurons within the damaged CNS are thought to be prevented from functional regeneration by inhibitory molecules such as chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs) and myelin-associated inhibitors. Here, we provide a transgenic test of the role of CSPGs in limiting regeneration, using the gfap promotor to express a CSPG-degrading enzyme chondroitinase ABC (ChABC) in astrocytes. Corticospinal axons extend within the lesion site, but not caudal to it, after dorsal hemisection in the transgenic mice. The presence of the gfap-ChABC transgene yields no significant improvement in motor function recovery in this model. In contrast, functionally significant sensory axon regeneration is observed after dorsal rhizotomy in transgenic mice. These transgenic studies confirm a local efficacy for reduced CSPG to enhance CNS axon growth after traumatic injury. CSPGs appear to function in a spatially distinct role from myelin inhibitors, implying that combination-based therapy will be especially advantageous for CNS injuries.
Project description:Despite the essential role of the corticospinal tract (CST) in controlling voluntary movements, successful regeneration of large numbers of injured CST axons beyond a spinal cord lesion has never been achieved. We found that PTEN/mTOR are critical for controlling the regenerative capacity of mouse corticospinal neurons. After development, the regrowth potential of CST axons was lost and this was accompanied by a downregulation of mTOR activity in corticospinal neurons. Axonal injury further diminished neuronal mTOR activity in these neurons. Forced upregulation of mTOR activity in corticospinal neurons by conditional deletion of Pten, a negative regulator of mTOR, enhanced compensatory sprouting of uninjured CST axons and enabled successful regeneration of a cohort of injured CST axons past a spinal cord lesion. Furthermore, these regenerating CST axons possessed the ability to reform synapses in spinal segments distal to the injury. Thus, modulating neuronal intrinsic PTEN/mTOR activity represents a potential therapeutic strategy for promoting axon regeneration and functional repair after adult spinal cord injury.
Project description:CNS lesions induce production of ECM molecules that inhibit axon regeneration. One major inhibitory family is the chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs). Reduction of their glycosaminoglycan (GAG) chains with chondroitinase ABC leads to increased axon regeneration that does not extend well past the lesion. Chondroitinase ABC, however, is unable to completely digest the GAG chains from the protein core, leaving an inhibitory "stub" carbohydrate behind. We used a newly designed DNA enzyme, which targets the mRNA of a critical enzyme that initiates glycosylation of the protein backbone of PGs, xylosyltransferase-1. DNA enzyme administration to TGF-beta-stimulated astrocytes in culture reduced specific GAG chains. The same DNA enzyme applied to the injured spinal cord led to a strong reduction of the GAG chains in the lesion penumbra and allowed axons to regenerate around the core of the lesion. Our experiments demonstrate the critical role of PGs, and particularly those in the penumbra, in causing regeneration failure in the adult spinal cord.
Project description:Neurons of the central nervous system (CNS) that project long axons into the spinal cord have a poor axon regenerative capacity compared to neurons of the peripheral nervous system. The corticospinal tract (CST) is particularly notorious for its poor regeneration. Because of this, traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating condition that remains as yet uncured. Based on our recent observations that direct neuronal interleukin-4 (IL-4) signaling leads to repair of axonal swellings and beneficial effects in neuroinflammation, we hypothesized that IL-4 acts directly on the CST. Here, we developed a tissue culture model for CST regeneration and found that IL-4 promoted new growth cone formation after axon transection. Most importantly, IL-4 directly increased the regenerative capacity of both murine and human CST axons, which corroborates its regenerative effects in CNS damage. Overall, these findings serve as proof-of-concept that our CST regeneration model is suitable for fast screening of new treatments for SCI.
Project description:The myelin-derived neurite growth inhibitor Nogo has been proposed to play a major role in blocking axon regeneration in the CNS after injuries. However, past studies have produced mixed results regarding the regenerative phenotype of various Nogo-deficient mouse lines after experimental spinal cord injury. Two lines did not display enhanced corticospinal tract (CST) regeneration, and one displayed modest regeneration. A fourth line, a Nogo-A,B gene-trap mutant, was instead reported to exhibit extensive CST regeneration, but the results were later found to be inadvertently confounded with an axon labeling artifact. Of the four Nogo mutant lines studied so far, three continue to express some isoform(s) of Nogo, leaving open the question whether any remaining Nogo protein contributes to the modest regenerative phenotype reported in some. The remaining Nogo mutant line studied was confounded by the unexplained rescue of embryonic lethality associated with this mutation. To gain a better understanding of the contribution of Nogo as an inhibitor of regeneration of CNS axons, and particularly CST axons, we reanalyzed the Nogo-A,B gene-trap mutant line and analyzed a novel, fully viable Nogo deletion mutant line that is null for all known isoforms of Nogo. Our analyses failed to reveal any enhanced CST regeneration after experimental spinal cord injury in either line. These results indicate that Nogo alone does not account for lack of CST regeneration and have implications for current therapeutic development for spinal cord injury in humans by targeting Nogo.
Project description:There is continuing controversy about whether the cells of origin of the corticospinal tract (CST) undergo retrograde cell death after spinal cord injury (SCI). All previous attempts to assess this have used imaging and/or histological techniques to assess upper motoneurons in the cerebral cortex. Here, we address the question in a novel way by assessing Wallerian degeneration and axon numbers in the medullary pyramid of Sprague Dawley rats after both acute SCI, either at cervical level 5 (C5) or thoracic level 9 (T9), and chronic SCI at T9. Our findings demonstrate that only a fraction of a percentage of the total axons in the medullary pyramid exhibit any sign of degeneration at any time after SCI--no more so than in uninjured control rats. Moreover, design-based counts of myelinated axons revealed no decrease in axon number in the medullary pyramid after SCI, regardless of injury level, severity, or time after injury. Spinal cord-injured rats had fewer myelinated axons in the medullary pyramid at 1 year after injury than aged matched controls, suggesting that injury may affect ongoing myelination of axons during aging. We conclude that SCI does not cause death of the CST cell bodies in the cortex; therefore, therapeutic strategies aimed at promoting axon regeneration of the CST in the spinal cord do not require a separate intervention to prevent retrograde degeneration of upper motoneurons in the cortex.
Project description:Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs) are a major class of axon growth inhibitors that are up-regulated after spinal cord injury (SCI) and contribute to regenerative failure. Chondroitinase ABC (chABC) digests glycosaminoglycan chains on CSPGs and can thereby overcome CSPG-mediated inhibition. But chABC loses its enzymatic activity rapidly at 37 degrees C, necessitating the use of repeated injections or local infusions for a period of days to weeks. These infusion systems are invasive, infection-prone, and clinically problematic. To overcome this limitation, we have thermostabilized chABC and developed a system for its sustained local delivery in vivo, obviating the need for chronically implanted catheters and pumps. Thermostabilized chABC remained active at 37 degrees C in vitro for up to 4 weeks. CSPG levels remained low in vivo up to 6 weeks post-SCI when thermostabilized chABC was delivered by a hydrogel-microtube scaffold system. Axonal growth and functional recovery following the sustained local release of thermostabilized chABC versus a single treatment of unstabilized chABC demonstrated significant differences in CSPG digestion. Animals treated with thermostabilized chABC in combination with sustained neurotrophin-3 delivery showed significant improvement in locomotor function and enhanced growth of cholera toxin B subunit-positive sensory axons and sprouting of serotonergic fibers. Therefore, improving chABC thermostability facilitates minimally invasive, sustained, local delivery of chABC that is potentially effective in overcoming CSPG-mediated regenerative failure. Combination therapy with thermostabilized chABC with neurotrophic factors enhances axonal regrowth, sprouting, and functional recovery after SCI.