Axon regeneration in the CNS requires reactivating injured neurons' intrinsic growth state and enabling growth in an inhibitory environment. Using an inbred mouse neuronal phenotypic screen, we find that CAST/Ei mouse adult dorsal root ganglion neurons extend axons more on CNS myelin than the other eight strains tested, especially when pre-injured. Injury-primed CAST/Ei neurons also regenerate markedly in the spinal cord and optic nerve more than those from C57BL/6 mice and show greater sprouting following ischemic stroke. Heritability estimates indicate that extended growth in CAST/Ei neurons on myelin is genetically determined, and two whole-genome expression screens yield the Activin transcript Inhba as most correlated with this ability. Inhibition of Activin signaling in CAST/Ei mice diminishes their CNS regenerative capacity, whereas its activation in C57BL/6 animals boosts regeneration. This screen demonstrates that mammalian CNS regeneration can occur and reveals a molecular pathway that contributes to this ability.
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