Genetic study of axon regeneration with cultured adult dorsal root ganglion neurons

Saijilafu, Feng Quan Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

It is well known that mature neurons in the central nervous system (CNS) cannot regenerate their axons after injuries due to diminished intrinsic ability to support axon growth and a hostile environment in the mature CNS1,2. In contrast, mature neurons in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) regenerate readily after injuries3. Adult dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons are well known to regenerate robustly after peripheral nerve injuries. Each DRG neuron grows one axon from the cell soma, which branches into two axonal branches: a peripheral branch innervating peripheral targets and a central branch extending into the spinal cord. Injury of the DRG peripheral axons results in substantial axon regeneration, whereas central axons in the spinal cord regenerate poorly after the injury. However, if the peripheral axonal injury occurs prior to the spinal cord injury (a process called the conditioning lesion), regeneration of central axons is greatly improved4. Moreover, the central axons of DRG neurons share the same hostile environment as descending corticospinal axons in the spinal cord. Together, it is hypothesized that the molecular mechanisms controlling axon regeneration of adult DRG neurons can be harnessed to enhance CNS axon regeneration. As a result, adult DRG neurons are now widely used as a model system to study regenerative axon growth5-7. Here we describe a method of adult DRG neuron culture that can be used for genetic study of axon regeneration in vitro. In this model adult DRG neurons are genetically manipulated via electroporation-mediated gene transfection6,8. By transfecting neurons with DNA plasmid or si/shRNA, this approach enables both gain- and loss-of-function experiments to investigate the role of any gene-of-interest in axon growth from adult DRG neurons. When neurons are transfected with si/shRNA, the targeted endogenous protein is usually depleted after 3-4 days in culture, during which time robust axon growth has already occurred, making the loss-of-function studies less effective. To solve this problem, the method described here includes a re-suspension and re-plating step after transfection, which allows axons to re-grow from neurons in the absence of the targeted protein. Finally, we provide an example of using this in vitro model to study the role of an axon regeneration-associated gene, c-Jun, in mediating axon growth from adult DRG neurons9.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number66
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 17 2012

Keywords

  • Axon growth
  • Axon regeneration
  • Cell culture
  • Developmental biology
  • Dorsal root ganglion
  • Issue 66
  • Neuroscience
  • Physiology
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)

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