Changes in cytoskeletal protein synthesis following axon injury and during axon regeneration

Mol Neurobiol. Summer-Fall 1992;6(2-3):107-23. doi: 10.1007/BF02780547.


Injury to the axons of facial motoneurons stimulates increases in the synthesis of actin, tubulins, and GAP-43, and decreases in the synthesis of neurofilament proteins: mRNA levels change correspondingly. In contrast to this robust response of peripheral neurons to axotomy, injured central nervous system neurons show either an attenuated response that is subsequently aborted (rubrospinal neurons) or overall decreases in cytoskeletal protein mRNA expression (corticospinal and retinal ganglion neurons). There is evidence that these changes in synthesis are regulated by a variety of factors, including loss of endoneurially or target-derived trophic factors, positive signals arising from the site of injury, changes in the intraaxonal turnover of proteins, and substitution of target-derived trophic support by factors produced by glial cells. It is concluded that there is, as yet, no coherent explanation for the upregulation or downregulation of any of the cytoskeletal proteins following axotomy or during regeneration. In considering the relevance of these changes in cytoskeletal protein synthesis to regeneration, it is emphasized that they are unlikely to be involved in the initial outgrowth of the injured axons, both because transit times between cell body and injury site are too long, and because sprouting can occur in isolated axons. Injury-induced acceleration of the axonal transport of tubulin and actin in the proximal axon is likely to be more important in providing the cytoskeletal protein required for initial axonal outgrowth. Subsequently, the increased synthesis and transport velocity for actin and tubulin increase the delivery of these proteins to support the increased volume of the maturing regenerating axons. Reduction in neurofilament synthesis and changes in neurofilament phosphorylation may permit the increased transport velocity of the other cytoskeletal proteins. There is little direct evidence that alterations in cytoskeletal protein synthesis are necessary for successful regeneration, nor are they sufficient in the absence of a supportive environment. Nevertheless, the correlation that exists between a robust cell body response and successful regeneration suggests that an understanding of the regulation of cytoskeletal protein synthesis following axon injury must be a part of any successful strategy to improve the regenerative capacity of the central nervous system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / biosynthesis
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / genetics
  • Facial Nerve / physiology
  • Facial Nerve Injuries
  • GAP-43 Protein
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / biosynthesis
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Nerve Regeneration*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Neurofilament Proteins / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Tubulin / biosynthesis


  • Actins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • GAP-43 Protein
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tubulin