Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs) play a pivotal role in many neuronal growth mechanisms including axon guidance and the modulation of repair processes following injury to the spinal cord or brain. Many actions of CSPGs in the central nervous system (CNS) are governed by the specific sulfation pattern on the glycosaminoglycan (GAG) chains attached to CSPG core proteins. To elucidate the role of CSPGs and sulfated GAG chains following traumatic brain injury (TBI), controlled cortical impact injury of mild to moderate severity was performed over the left sensory motor cortex in mice. Using immunoblotting and immunostaining, we found that TBI resulted in an increase in the CSPGs neurocan and NG2 expression in a tight band surrounding the injury core, which overlapped with the presence of 4-sulfated CS GAGs but not with 6-sulfated GAGs. This increase was observed as early as 7 days post injury (dpi), and persisted for up to 28 dpi. Labeling with markers against microglia/macrophages, NG2+ cells, fibroblasts, and astrocytes showed that these cells were all localized in the area, suggesting multiple origins of chondroitin-4-sulfate increase. TBI also caused a decrease in the expression of aggrecan and phosphacan in the pericontusional cortex with a concomitant reduction in the number of perineuronal nets. In summary, we describe a dual response in CSPGs whereby they may be actively involved in complex repair processes following TBI.
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