Neuronal activity after nerve injury can enhance axon regeneration and the restoration of function. The mechanism for this enhancement relies in part on hormone receptors, and we previously demonstrated that systemic androgen receptor antagonism blocked the effect of exercise or electrical stimulation on enhancing axon regeneration after nerve injury in both sexes. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the site of this androgen receptor signaling is both neuronal and involves the classical, genomic signaling pathway. In vivo, dorsal root ganglion neurons successfully regenerate in response to activity-dependent neuronal activation, and conditional deletion of the DNA-binding domain of the androgen receptor in adults blocks this effect in males and females. Motoneurons in males and females also respond in this manner, but we also observed a sex difference. In vitro, cultured sensory dorsal root ganglion neurons respond to androgens via traditional androgen receptor signaling mechanisms leading to enhanced neurite growth and did not respond to a testosterone conjugate that is unable to cross the cell membrane. Given our previous observation of a requirement for activity-dependent androgen receptor signaling to promote regeneration in both sexes, we interpret our results to indicate that genomic neuronal androgen receptor signaling is required for activity-dependent axon regeneration in both sexes.
Keywords: androgen receptor; axon regeneration; dorsal root ganglia; electrical stimulation; motoneuron; nerve injury; testosterone.
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