Neuropilin-1 (NP-1) is a component of the receptor for semaphorin3a (Sema3a), a member of a large family of molecules with widespread expression and demonstrable influence (via their ability to repel growing axons) on nervous system development. Recent studies have shown that some types of adult mammalian neurons retain the capacity to respond to Sema3a, particularly in relation to neuronal injury and regeneration. Although variations in expression of Sema3a mRNA have been revealed in neurons in both the central and peripheral nervous systems in this context, relatively little is known about NP-1 expression patterns. In this study we investigated the expression of NP-1 mRNA in adult dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons in intact and lesioned animals. We compared the effect of unilateral lesioning of the sciatic nerve or unilateral dorsal rhizotomy at lumbar levels L4/5, and bilateral dorsal funiculus lesioning at thoracic levels T10/11 on NP-1 mRNA expression in the cell bodies of lumbar DRGs. A significantly increased level of NP-1 mRNA expression was detected only following sciatic nerve lesioning (P < 0.001), but not after rhizotomy or dorsal funiculus lesioning. Furthermore, this upregulation was mainly confined to large diameter neurons of DRGs at lumbar levels L4/5, which provide the main sensory contribution to the sciatic nerve. These results suggest a role for NP-1 in the axonal response to peripheral nerve injury, which may be specific to a particular subset of primary sensory neurons.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.