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The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Postinjury Induction of Activated ErbB2 Selectively Hyperactivates Denervated Schwann Cells and Promotes Robust Dorsal Root Axon Regeneration.


PMID 28982707

Abstract

Following nerve injury, denervated Schwann cells (SCs) convert to repair SCs, which enable regeneration of peripheral axons. However, the repair capacity of SCs and the regenerative capacity of peripheral axons are limited. In the present studies we examined a potential therapeutic strategy to enhance the repair capacity of SCs, and tested its efficacy in enhancing regeneration of dorsal root (DR) axons, whose regenerative capacity is particularly weak. We used male and female mice of a doxycycline-inducible transgenic line to induce expression of constitutively active ErbB2 (caErbB2) selectively in SCs after DR crush or transection. Two weeks after injury, injured DRs of induced animals contained far more SCs and SC processes. These SCs had not redifferentiated and continued to proliferate. Injured DRs of induced animals also contained far more axons that regrew along SC processes past the transection or crush site. Remarkably, SCs and axons in uninjured DRs remained quiescent, indicating that caErbB2 enhanced regeneration of injured DRs, without aberrantly activating SCs and axons in intact nerves. We also found that intraspinally expressed glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), but not the removal of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans, greatly enhanced the intraspinal migration of caErbB2-expressing SCs, enabling robust penetration of DR axons into the spinal cord. These findings indicate that SC-selective, post-injury activation of ErbB2 provides a novel strategy to powerfully enhance the repair capacity of SCs and axon regeneration, without substantial off-target damage. They also highlight that promoting directed migration of caErbB2-expressing SCs by GDNF might be useful to enable axon regrowth in a non-permissive environment.