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Age-Dependent Schwann Cell Phenotype Regulation Following Peripheral Nerve Injury.

W. A. Chen, T. D. Luo, Jonathan C. Barnwell, T. Smith, Z. Li
Published 2017 · Medicine

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BACKGROUND Schwann cells are integral to the regenerative capacity of the peripheral nervous system, which declines after adolescence. The mechanisms underlying this decline are poorly understood. This study sought to compare the protein expression of Notch, c-Jun, and Krox-20 after nerve crush injury in adolescent and young adult rats. We hypothesized that these Schwann cell myelinating regulatory factors are down-regulated after nerve injury in an age-dependent fashion. METHODS Adolescent (2 months old) and young adult (12 months old) rats (n = 48) underwent sciatic nerve crush injury. Protein expression of Notch, c-Jun, and Krox-20 was quantified by Western blot analysis at 1, 3, and 7 days post-injury. Functional recovery was assessed in a separate group of animals (n = 8) by gait analysis (sciatic functional index) and electromyography (compound motor action potential) over an 8-week post-injury period. RESULTS Young adult rats demonstrated a trend of delayed onset of the dedifferentiating regulatory factors, Notch and c-Jun, corresponding to the delayed functional recovery observed in young adult rats compared to adolescent rats. Compound motor action potential area was significantly greater in adolescent rats relative to young adult rats, while amplitude and velocity trended toward statistical significance. CONCLUSIONS The process of Schwann cell dedifferentiation following peripheral nerve injury shows different trends with age. These trends of delayed onset of key regulatory factors responsible for Schwann cell myelination may be one of many possible factors mediating the significant differences in functional recovery between adolescent and young adult rats following peripheral nerve injury.
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