Neonatal motoneurons (MNs) die rapidly after axotomy, a response that is mediated by the pro-apoptotic gene Bax and is followed by a mitochondria- mediated apoptotic cascade. Although motoneurons in neonatal Bax-deficient mice fail to degenerate following axotomy, it has not been previously examined whether the rescued MNs can regenerate following injury. We report here that although spinal MNs in Bax-knockout (Bax-KO) mice survive indefinitely, they undergo severe atrophy by 14 days after axotomy. By 1 month following axotomy, MN regeneration was observed and cellular atrophy was partially reversed. Interestingly, we observed that all MNs, including those previously rescued from normal developmental cell death in the embryo by Bax deletion, exhibit a regenerative response to peripheral nerve injury. The regenerative response may be mediated by specific trophic factors because the expression of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) was greatly increased in the proximal stump of injured nerves and application of a GDNF-blocking antibody greatly reduced regeneration/regrowth of rescued MNs in Bax-KO mice. These results indicate that MNs rescued from developmental or injury-induced cell death by Bax deletion have the potential to regenerate or regrow in response to nerve-derived signals following neonatal axotomy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology