This study evaluates the expression of the chemorepellent semaphorin III (D)/collapsin-1 (sema III) following lesions to the rat CNS. Scar tissue, formed after penetrating injuries to the lateral olfactory tract (LOT), cortex, perforant pathway, and spinal cord, contained numerous spindle-shaped cells expressing high levels of sema III mRNA. The properties of these cells were investigated in detail in the lesioned LOT. Most sema III mRNA-positive cells were located in the core of the scar and expressed proteins characteristic for fibroblast-like cells. Neuropilin-1, a sema III receptor, was expressed in injured neurons with projections to the lesion site, in a subpopulation of scar-associated cells and in blood vessels around the scar. In contrast to lesions made in the mature CNS, LOT transection in neonates did not induce sema III mRNA expression within cells in the lesion and was followed by vigorous axonal regeneration. The concomitant expression of sema III and its receptor neuropilin-1 in the scar suggests that sema III/neuropilin-1-mediated mechanisms are involved in CNS scar formation. The expression of the secreted chemorepellent sema III following CNS injury provides the first evidence that chemorepulsive semaphorins may contribute to the inhibitory effects exerted by scars on the outgrowth of injured CNS neurites. The vigorous regrowth of injured axons in the absence of sema III following early neonatal lesions is consistent with this notion. The inactivation of sema III in scar tissue by either antibody perturbation or by genetic or pharmacological intervention could be a powerful means to promote long-distance regeneration in the adult CNS.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.