Oxidative stress is considered to be one of the main causes of neural damage after injury. However, little is known about the changes in mRNA expression of antioxidant molecules that occur after injury and regeneration of the peripheral nerve. In the present study, the rat median nerve was transected, and transcriptional changes were studied at day 6 and day 12 after injury in both the proximal and the distal stumps, in the absence or presence of microsurgical repair. The expression profiles of the following genes were investigated: three metallothionein isoforms (MT-1, MT-2, and MT-3), the main antioxidant enzymes (catalase, superoxide dismutase, and glutathione-S-transferase), and the marker of cellular damage poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 (PARP-1). The results showed that, in the proximal nerve stump, MT-3 mRNA expression was significantly and markedly up-regulated in the absence of surgical repair, whereas MT-1 and MT-2 showed significant down-regulation. In the distal nerve portion, mRNA expression of all MT isoforms decreased significantly in the absence of microsurgical reconstruction, whereas, after repair, MT-3 mRNA expression alone was up-regulated. Expression of all the antioxidant enzymes decreased significantly after repair in the proximal nerve portion, but a significant general increase in their mRNA expression was revealed in the distal nerve stump. PARP-1 expression was significantly up-regulated in the proximal nerve portion without repair but dramatically reduced after reconstruction. In contrast, PARP-1 expression increased markedly in the distal stump after surgical repair. Taken together, these findings indicate that antioxidant molecules are differentially modulated and might, therefore, play an important role in peripheral nerve injury and regeneration.
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