Motoneuron activity is required for enhancements in functional recovery after peripheral nerve injury in exercised female mice

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Inhibitory luminopsins (iLMO2) integrate opto- and chemo-genetic approaches and allow for cell-type specific inhibition of neuronal activity. When exposed to a Renilla luciferase substrate, Coelenterazine (CTZ), iLMO2 generates bioluminescence-mediated activation of its amino-terminal halorhodopsin, resulting in neuronal inhibition. Moderate daily exercise in the form of interval treadmill-training (IT) applied following a peripheral nerve injury results in enhanced motor axon regeneration and muscle fiber reinnervation in female mice. We hypothesized that iLMO2 mediated inhibition of motoneuron activity during IT would block this enhancement. Unilateral intramuscular injections of Cre-dependent AAV2/9-EF1a-DIO-iLMO2 (˜8.5 x 1013 vg/ml) were made into the gastrocnemius and tibialis anterior muscles of young female ChAT-IRES-Cre mice, thereby limiting iLMO2 expression specifically to their motoneurons. Four to six weeks were allowed for retrograde viral transduction after which a unilateral sciatic nerve transection (Tx) and repair was performed. Animals were randomized into four groups: IT only, IT + CTZ, CTZ only, and untreated (UT). Three weeks post Tx-repair, the maximal amplitude direct muscle responses (M-max) in both muscles in the IT only group were significantly greater than in UT mice, consistent with the enhancing effects of this exercise regimen. Inhibiting motoneuron activity during exercise by a single injection of CTZ, administered 30 minutes prior to exercise, completely blocked the enhancing effect of exercise. Similar treatments with CTZ in mice without iLMO2 had no effect on regeneration. Neuronal activity is required for successful enhancement of motor axon regeneration by exercise.

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