Lithium chloride reinforces the regeneration-promoting effect of chondroitinase ABC on rubrospinal neurons after spinal cord injury

J Neurotrauma. 2004 Jul;21(7):932-43. doi: 10.1089/neu.2004.21.932.


After spinal cord injury, enzymatic digestion of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans promotes axonal regeneration of central nervous system neurons across the lesion scar. We examined whether chondroitinase ABC (ChABC) promotes the axonal regeneration of rubrospinal tract (RST) neurons following injury to the spinal cord. The effect of a GSK-3beta inhibitor, lithium chloride (LiCl), on the regeneration of axotomized RST neurons was also assessed. Adult rats received a unilateral hemisection at the seventh cervical spinal cord segment (C7). Four weeks after different treatments, regeneration of RST axons across the lesion scar was examined by injection of Fluoro-Gold at spinal segment T2, and locomotor recovery was studied by a test of forelimb usage. Injured RST axons did not regenerate spontaneously after spinal cord injury, and intraperitoneal injection of LiCl alone did not promote the regeneration of RST axons. Administration of ChABC at the lesion site enhanced the regeneration of RST axons by 20%. Combined treatment of LiCl together with ChABC significantly increased the regeneration of RST axons to 42%. Animals receiving combined treatment used both forelimbs together more often than animals that received sham or single treatment. Immunoblotting and immunohistochemical analysis revealed that LiCl induced the expression of inactive GSK-3beta as well as the upregulation of Bcl-2 in injured RST neurons. These results indicate that in vivo, LiCl inhibits GSK-3beta and reinforces the regeneration-promoting function of ChABC through a Bcl-2-dependent mechanism. Combined use of LiCl together with ChABC could be a novel treatment for spinal cord injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cervical Vertebrae
  • Chondroitin ABC Lyase / metabolism
  • Chondroitin ABC Lyase / pharmacology*
  • Drug Synergism
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lithium Chloride / therapeutic use*
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Nerve Regeneration / drug effects*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / biosynthesis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Recovery of Function
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / drug therapy*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Chondroitin ABC Lyase
  • Lithium Chloride