Adult mammalian central nervous system (CNS) trauma interrupts neural networks and, because axonal regeneration is minimal, neurological deficits persist. Repair via axonal growth is limited by extracellular inhibitors and cell-autonomous factors. Based on results from a screen in vitro, we evaluate nearly 400 genes through a large-scale in vivo regeneration screen. Suppression of 40 genes using viral-driven short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) promotes retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axon regeneration after optic nerve crush (ONC), and most are validated by separate CRISPR-Cas9 editing experiments. Expression of these axon-regeneration-suppressing genes is not significantly altered by axotomy. Among regeneration-limiting genes, loss of the interleukin 22 (IL-22) cytokine allows an early, yet transient, inflammatory response in the retina after injury. Reduced IL-22 drives concurrent activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (Stat3) and dual leucine zipper kinase (DLK) pathways and upregulation of multiple neuron-intrinsic regeneration-associated genes (RAGs). Including IL-22, our screen identifies dozens of genes that limit CNS regeneration. Suppression of these genes in the context of axonal damage could support improved neural repair.
Keywords: AAV; CRISPR; IL-22; axon regeneration; gene editing; inflammation; optic nerve; retina; shRNA.
Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.