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Conditional genetic deletion of PTEN after a spinal cord injury enhances regenerative growth of CST axons and motor function recovery in mice.

Experimental neurology (2015-02-24)
Camelia A Danilov, Oswald Steward
ABSTRACT

Previous studies indicate that conditional genetic deletion of phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) in neonatal mice enhances the ability of axons to regenerate following spinal cord injury (SCI) in adults. Here, we assessed whether deleting PTEN in adult neurons post-SCI is also effective, and whether enhanced regenerative growth is accompanied by enhanced recovery of voluntary motor function. PTEN(loxP/loxP) mice received moderate contusion injuries at cervical level 5 (C5). One group received unilateral injections of adeno-associated virus expressing CRE (AAV-CRE) into the sensorimotor cortex; controls received a vector expressing green fluorescent protein (AAV-GFP) or injuries only (no vector injections). Forelimb function was tested for 14weeks post-SCI using a grip strength meter (GSM) and a hanging task. The corticospinal tract (CST) was traced by injecting mini-ruby BDA into the sensorimotor cortex. Forelimb gripping ability was severely impaired immediately post-SCI but recovered slowly over time. The extent of recovery was significantly greater in PTEN-deleted mice in comparison to either the AAV-GFP group or the injury only group. BDA tract tracing revealed significantly higher numbers of BDA-labeled axons in caudal segments in the PTEN-deleted group compared to control groups. In addition, in the PTEN-deleted group, there were exuberant collaterals extending from the main tract rostral to the lesion and into and around the scar tissue at the injury site. These results indicate that PTEN deletion in adult mice shortly post-SCI can enhance regenerative growth of CST axons and forelimb motor function recovery.

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