Although neural c-Jun is essential for successful peripheral nerve regeneration, the cellular basis of this effect and the impact of c-Jun activation are incompletely understood. In the current study, we explored the effects of neuron-selective c-Jun deletion, substitution of serine 63 and 73 phosphoacceptor sites with non-phosphorylatable alanine, and deletion of Jun N-terminal kinases 1, 2 and 3 in mouse facial nerve regeneration. Removal of the floxed c-jun gene in facial motoneurons using cre recombinase under control of a neuron-specific synapsin promoter (junΔS) abolished basal and injury-induced neuronal c-Jun immunoreactivity, as well as most of the molecular responses following facial axotomy. Absence of neuronal Jun reduced the speed of axonal regeneration following crush, and prevented most cut axons from reconnecting to their target, significantly reducing functional recovery. Despite blocking cell death, this was associated with a large number of shrunken neurons. Finally, junΔS mutants also had diminished astrocyte and microglial activation and T-cell influx, suggesting that these non-neuronal responses depend on the release of Jun-dependent signals from neighboring injured motoneurons. The effects of substituting serine 63 and 73 phosphoacceptor sites (junAA), or of global deletion of individual kinases responsible for N-terminal c-Jun phosphorylation were mild. junAA mutants showed decrease in neuronal cell size, a moderate reduction in post-axotomy CD44 levels and slightly increased astrogliosis. Deletion of Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)1 or JNK3 showed delayed functional recovery; deletion of JNK3 also interfered with T-cell influx, and reduced CD44 levels. Deletion of JNK2 had no effect. Thus, neuronal c-Jun is needed in regeneration, but JNK phosphorylation of the N-terminus mostly appears to not be required for its function.
© 2012 The Authors. Journal of Neurochemistry © 2012 International Society for Neurochemistry.