Selecting optimal combinations of transcription factors to promote axon regeneration: Why mechanisms matter

Neurosci Lett. 2017 Jun 23;652:64-73. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2016.12.032. Epub 2016 Dec 23.


Recovery from injuries to the central nervous system, including spinal cord injury, is constrained in part by the intrinsically low ability of many CNS neurons to mount an effective regenerative growth response. To improve outcomes, it is essential to understand and ultimately reverse these neuron-intrinsic constraints. Genetic manipulation of key transcription factors (TFs), which act to orchestrate production of multiple regeneration-associated genes, has emerged as a promising strategy. It is likely that no single TF will be sufficient to fully restore neuron-intrinsic growth potential, and that multiple, functionally interacting factors will be needed. An extensive literature, mostly from non-neural cell types, has identified potential mechanisms by which TFs can functionally synergize. Here we examine four potential mechanisms of TF/TF interaction; physical interaction, transcriptional cross-regulation, signaling-based cross regulation, and co-occupancy of regulatory DNA. For each mechanism, we consider how existing knowledge can be used to guide the discovery and effective use of TF combinations in the context of regenerative neuroscience. This mechanistic insight into TF interactions is needed to accelerate the design of effective TF-based interventions to relieve neuron-intrinsic constraints to regeneration and to foster recovery from CNS injury.

Keywords: Axon regeneration; Co-occupancy; Combination; Network; Spinal cord injury; Transcription factor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Genetic Loci
  • Humans
  • Nerve Regeneration*
  • Peripheral Nerves / metabolism
  • Peripheral Nerves / pathology
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / therapy
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Transcription Factors