Extracellular histones, a new class of inhibitory molecules of CNS axonal regeneration

Brain Commun. 2021 Nov 13;3(4):fcab271. doi: 10.1093/braincomms/fcab271. eCollection 2021.


Axonal regeneration in the mature CNS is limited by extracellular inhibitory factors. Triple knockout mice lacking the major myelin-associated inhibitors do not display spontaneous regeneration after injury, indicating the presence of other inhibitors. Searching for such inhibitors, we have detected elevated levels of histone H3 in human CSF 24 h after spinal cord injury. Following dorsal column lesions in mice and optic nerve crushes in rats, elevated levels of extracellular histone H3 were detected at the injury site. Similar to myelin-associated inhibitors, these extracellular histones induced growth cone collapse and inhibited neurite outgrowth. Histones mediate inhibition through the transcription factor Y-box-binding protein 1 and Toll-like receptor 2, and these effects are independent of the Nogo receptor. Histone-mediated inhibition can be reversed by the addition of activated protein C in vitro, and activated protein C treatment promotes axonal regeneration in the crushed optic nerve in vivo. These findings identify extracellular histones as a new class of nerve regeneration-inhibiting molecules within the injured CNS.

Keywords: CNS; axonal regeneration; axons; extracellular histones; inhibitory molecules.