Peripheral nerve graft with immunosuppression modifies gene expression in axotomized CNS neurons

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Adult central nervous system (CNS) neurons do not regenerate severed axons unaided but may regenerate axons into apposed predegenerated peripheral nerve grafts (PNGs). We examined gene expression by using microarray technology in laser-dissected lateral vestibular (LV) neurons whose axons were severed by a lateral hemisection at C3 (HX) and in lateral vestibular nucleus (LVN) neurons that were hemisected at C3 and that received immunosuppression with cyclosporine A (CsA) and a predegenerated PNG (termed I-PNG) into the lesion site. The results provide an expression analysis of temporal changes that occur in LVN neurons in nonregenerative and potentially regenerative states and over a period of 42 days. Axotomy alone resulted in a prolonged change in regulation of probe sets, with more being upregulated than downregulated. Apposition of a PNG with immunosuppression muted gene expression overall. Axotomized neurons (HX) upregulated genes commonly associated with axonal growth, whereas axotomized neurons whose axons were apposed to the PNG showed diminished expression of many of these genes but greater expression of genes related to energy production. The results suggest that axotomized LVN neurons express many genes thought to be associated with regeneration to a greater extent than LVN neurons that are apposed to a PNG. Thus the LVN neurons remain in a regenerative state following axotomy but the conditions provided by the I-PNG appear to be neuroprotective, preserving or enhancing mitochondrial activity, which may provide required energy for regeneration. We speculate that the graft also enables sufficient axonal synthesis of cytoskeletal components to allow axonal growth without marked increase in expression of genes normally associated with regeneration. J. Comp. Neurol. 519:3433–3455, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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