January 22, 2021

Profiling sensory neuron microenvironment after peripheral and central axon injury reveals key pathways for axon regeneration

Sensory neurons with cell bodies in dorsal root ganglia (DRG) represent a useful model to study axon regeneration. Whereas regeneration and functional recovery occurs after peripheral nerve injury, spinal cord injury or dorsal root injury is not followed by regenerative outcomes. This results in part from a failure of central injury to elicit a pro-regenerative response in sensory neurons. However, regeneration of sensory axons in peripheral nerves is not entirely cell autonomous. Whether the different regenerative capacities after peripheral or central injury result in part from a lack of response of macrophages, satellite glial cells (SGC) or other non-neuronal cells in the DRG microenvironment remains largely unknown. To answer this question, we performed a single cell transcriptional profiling of DRG in response to peripheral (sciatic nerve crush) and central injuries (dorsal root crush and spinal cord injury). Each cell type responded differently to peripheral and central injuries. Activation of the PPAR signaling pathway in SGC, which promotes axon regeneration after nerve injury, did not occur after central injuries. Treatment with the FDA-approved PPARa agonist fenofibrate, increased axon regeneration after dorsal root injury. This study provides a map of the distinct DRG microenvironment responses to peripheral and central injuries at the single cell level and highlights that manipulating non-neuronal cells could lead to avenues to promote functional recovery after CNS injuries.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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