We previously demonstrated that transplantation of Schwann cell-seeded channels promoted the regrowth of injured axons in the adult spinal cord. It is not clear, however, whether injured axons recapitulate the developmental scenarios to accomplish regeneration. In the present study, we investigated the early events associated with axonal regrowth after spinal cord hemisection at the eighth thoracic level and implantation of a Schwann cell-seeded minichannel in adult rats. Animals were sacrificed at postoperative days (PO) 2, 4, 7, and 14. Anterograde tracing with fluoro-ruby showed that regenerating axons grew into the graft prior to PO2 and reached the distal end of the channel at PO7. These axons expressed both embryonic neural cell adhesion molecule (E-NCAM) and growth associated protein-43 (GAP-43). Although the expression of E-NCAM decreased by PO7, that of GAP-43 remained high throughout the first 2 weeks after implantation. A close relation of vimentin-positive astroglia to the growing axons in the host tissue suggested a contact-mediated role of these cells in axon guidance. Aggregation of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)-positive astrocytes together with the increased expression of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs) starting at PO7 appeared to inhibit axonal growth at the host-graft interface. Thus, adult regenerating axons and astroglia do express developmentally related molecules that may facilitate axonal growth into a permissive graft at the early phase of injury and regeneration. These results suggest that molecules and astroglia essential to development are both important in influencing axonal regrowth in the adult spinal cord.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience