Glial Metabolic Rewiring Promotes Axon Regeneration and Functional Recovery in the Central Nervous System

Cell Metab. 2020 Nov 3;32(5):767-785.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2020.08.015. Epub 2020 Sep 16.


Axons in the mature central nervous system (CNS) fail to regenerate after axotomy, partly due to the inhibitory environment constituted by reactive glial cells producing astrocytic scars, chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans, and myelin debris. We investigated this inhibitory milieu, showing that it is reversible and depends on glial metabolic status. We show that glia can be reprogrammed to promote morphological and functional regeneration after CNS injury in Drosophila via increased glycolysis. This enhancement is mediated by the glia derived metabolites: L-lactate and L-2-hydroxyglutarate (L-2HG). Genetically/pharmacologically increasing or reducing their bioactivity promoted or impeded CNS axon regeneration. L-lactate and L-2HG from glia acted on neuronal metabotropic GABAB receptors to boost cAMP signaling. Local application of L-lactate to injured spinal cord promoted corticospinal tract axon regeneration, leading to behavioral recovery in adult mice. Our findings revealed a metabolic switch to circumvent the inhibition of glia while amplifying their beneficial effects for treating CNS injuries.

Keywords: 2-hydroxyglutarate; GABA(B) receptor; axon regeneration; cAMP; central nervous system; functional recovery; glia; lactate; metabolism; spinal cord injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nerve Regeneration
  • Neuroglia / metabolism*