Attenuation of Robust Glial Scar Formation Facilitates Functional Recovery in Animal Models of Chronic Nerve Compression Injury

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Late surgery for chronic nerve compression injuries usually improves sensation but rarely reverses motor atrophy. We hypothesized that a persistent glial scar after chronic nerve compression injury might account for poor motor recovery and that degradation of the glial scar as an adjunct to surgical decompression would improve functional recovery.


A previously described model of chronic nerve compression injury was created in C57BL/6 mice and Sprague-Dawley rats, and the nerves were harvested early or late after electrophysiological confirmation of the injury. Western blot, polymerase chain reaction, and quantitative immunohistochemical analyses were performed to determine levels of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans and extracellular matrix molecules. Subsets of mice were treated either with surgical decompression alone or with decompression coupled with intraepineurial injection of a low dose (0.1 μgμL) or a high dose (0.2 μg/μL) of chondroitinase ABC at 6 weeks after injury.


Aggrecan showed the greatest change in mRNA and protein levels at the early and late time points following creation of the chronic nerve compression injury. Quantitative immunohistochemical analysis revealed early aggrecan upregulation localized primarily to the endoneurium and late upregulation localized to the perineurium and epineurium (p < 0.0105). Quantitative immunohistochemical analysis for collagen IV, laminin-α2, and fibronectin also showed early upregulation with perineurial scarring. Quantitative immunohistochemical analysis and Western blot analysis for aggrecan demonstrated a marked increase in the endoneurium at the early time points and upregulation of expression in the epineurium and perineurium at the late time points. Decompression along with intraepineurial injection of high-dose chondroitinase ABC at 6 weeks after creation of the compression injury resulted in marked attenuation of decorin and aggrecan expression with functional improvement in nerve conduction velocity.


Significant upregulation of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans and other extracellular matrix components contributes to the pathogenesis of compression neuropathies in murine models. The administration of chondroitinase ABC degrades these chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans and improves functional recovery after chronic nerve compression injury; thus, it can be considered as a possible therapeutic adjunct.

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