Activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3) induction by axotomy in sensory and motoneurons: A novel neuronal marker of nerve injury

Mol Cell Neurosci. 2000 Feb;15(2):170-82. doi: 10.1006/mcne.1999.0814.


Activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3), a member of ATF/CREB family of transcription factors, is induced in a variety of stressed tissue. ATF3 regulates transcription by binding to DNA sites as a homodimer or heterodimer with Jun proteins. The purpose of this study was to examine the expression and regulation of ATF3 after axonal injury in neurons in dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and spinal cord. In naive rats, ATF3 was not expressed in the DRG and spinal cord. Following the cut of peripheral nerve, ATF3 was immediately induced in virtually all DRG neurons and motoneurons that were axotomized, and the time course of induction was dependent on the distance between the injury site and the cell body. Double labeling using immunohistochemistry revealed that the population of DRG neurons expressing ATF3 included those expressing c-jun, and in motoneurons ATF3 and c-jun were concurrently expressed after axotomy. In contrast to c-jun, ATF3 was not induced transsynaptically in spinal dorsal horn neurons. We conclude that ATF3 is specifically induced in sensory and motoneurons in the spinal cord following nerve injury and should be regarded as an unique neuronal marker of nerve injury in the nervous system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activating Transcription Factor 3
  • Animals
  • Axotomy
  • Biomarkers
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiology*
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiopathology
  • Genes, jun
  • Leucine Zippers
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-jun / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Rats
  • Sciatic Nerve / injuries*
  • Sciatic Nerve / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiopathology
  • Transcription Factors / biosynthesis
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Activating Transcription Factor 3
  • Atf3 protein, rat
  • Biomarkers
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-jun
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transcription Factors