Zinc chelation and Klf9 knockdown cooperatively promote axon regeneration after optic nerve injury

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Abstract

The inability of axons to regenerate over long-distances in the central nervous system (CNS) limits the recovery of sensory, motor, and cognitive functions after various CNS injuries and diseases. Although pre-clinical studies have identified a number of manipulations that stimulate some degree of axon growth after CNS damage, the extent of recovery remains quite limited, emphasizing the need for improved therapies. Here, we used traumatic injury to the mouse optic nerve as a model system to test the effects of combining several treatments that have recently been found to promote axon regeneration without the risks associated with manipulating known tumor suppressors or oncogenes. The treatments tested here include TPEN, a chelator of mobile (free) zinc (Zn2+); shRNA against the axon growth-suppressing transcription factor Klf9; and the atypical growth factor oncomodulin combined with a cAMP analog. Whereas some combinatorial treatments produced only marginally stronger effects than the individual treatments alone, co-treatment with TPEN and Klf9 knockdown had a substantially stronger effect on axon regeneration than either one alone. This combination also promoted a high level of cell survival at longer time points. Thus, Zn2+ chelation in combination with Klf9 suppression holds therapeutic potential for promoting axon regeneration after optic nerve injury, and may also be effective for treating other CNS injuries and diseases.

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