Neural development

Genome-wide expression profile of the response to spinal cord injury in Xenopus laevis reveals extensive differences between regenerative and non-regenerative stages.

PMID 24885550


Xenopus laevis has regenerative and non-regenerative stages. As a tadpole, it is fully capable of functional recovery after a spinal cord injury, while its juvenile form (froglet) loses this capability during metamorphosis. We envision that comparative studies between regenerative and non-regenerative stages in Xenopus could aid in understanding why spinal cord regeneration fails in human beings. To identify the mechanisms that allow the tadpole to regenerate and inhibit regeneration in the froglet, we obtained a transcriptome-wide profile of the response to spinal cord injury in Xenopus regenerative and non-regenerative stages. We found extensive transcriptome changes in regenerative tadpoles at 1 day after injury, while this was only observed by 6 days after injury in non-regenerative froglets. In addition, when comparing both stages, we found that they deployed a very different repertoire of transcripts, with more than 80% of them regulated in only one stage, including previously unannotated transcripts. This was supported by gene ontology enrichment analysis and validated by RT-qPCR, which showed that transcripts involved in metabolism, response to stress, cell cycle, development, immune response and inflammation, neurogenesis, and axonal regeneration were regulated differentially between regenerative and non-regenerative stages. We identified differences in the timing of the transcriptional response and in the inventory of regulated transcripts and biological processes activated in response to spinal cord injury when comparing regenerative and non-regenerative stages. These genes and biological processes provide an entry point to understand why regeneration fails in mammals. Furthermore, our results introduce Xenopus laevis as a genetic model organism to study spinal cord regeneration.