Chronically CNS-injured adult sensory neurons gain regenerative competence upon a lesion of their peripheral axon

Curr Biol. 2009 Jun 9;19(11):930-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.04.017. Epub 2009 Apr 30.


Several experimental manipulations result in axonal regeneration in the central nervous system (CNS) when applied before or at the time of injury but not when initiated after a delay, which would be clinically more relevant. As centrally injured neurons show signs of atrophy and degeneration, it raises the question whether chronically injured neurons are able to regenerate. To address this question, we used adult rodent primary sensory neurons that regenerate their central axon when their peripheral axon is cut (called conditioning) beforehand but not afterwards. We found that primary sensory neurons express regeneration-associated genes and efficiently regrow their axon in cell culture two months after a central lesion upon conditioning. Moreover, conditioning enables central axons to regenerate through a fresh lesion independent of a previous central lesion. Using in vivo imaging we demonstrated that conditioned neurons rapidly regrow their axons through a fresh central lesion. Finally, when single sensory axons were cut with a two-photon laser, they robustly regenerate within days after attaining growth competence through conditioning. We conclude that sensory neurons can acquire the intrinsic potential to regenerate their axons months after a CNS lesion, which they implement in the absence of traumatic tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Central Nervous System / injuries
  • Central Nervous System / pathology*
  • Nerve Regeneration / genetics
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / ultrastructure
  • Time Factors