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Open Access Research article

Long descending cervical propriospinal neurons differ from thoracic propriospinal neurons in response to low thoracic spinal injury

Justin R Siebert1, Frank A Middleton2 and Dennis J Stelzner1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, SUNY Upstate Medical University 750 East Adams Street Syracuse, New York 13210, USA

2 Department of Neuroscience and Physiology, SUNY Upstate Medical University 750 East Adams Street Syracuse, New York 13210, USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2010, 11:148  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-11-148

Published: 23 November 2010

Abstract

Background

Propriospinal neurons, with axonal projections intrinsic to the spinal cord, have shown a greater regenerative response than supraspinal neurons after axotomy due to spinal cord injury (SCI). Our previous work focused on the response of axotomized short thoracic propriospinal (TPS) neurons following a low thoracic SCI (T9 spinal transection or moderate spinal contusion injury) in the rat. The present investigation analyzes the intrinsic response of cervical propriospinal neurons having long descending axons which project into the lumbosacral enlargement, long descending propriospinal tract (LDPT) axons. These neurons also were axotomized by T9 spinal injury in the same animals used in our previous study.

Results

Utilizing laser microdissection (LMD), qRT-PCR, and immunohistochemistry, we studied LDPT neurons (located in the C5-C6 spinal segments) between 3-days, and 1-month following a low thoracic (T9) spinal cord injury. We examined the response of 89 genes related to growth factors, cell surface receptors, apoptosis, axonal regeneration, and neuroprotection/cell survival. We found a strong and significant down-regulation of ~25% of the genes analyzed early after injury (3-days post-injury) with a sustained down-regulation in most instances. In the few genes that were up-regulated (Actb, Atf3, Frs2, Hspb1, Nrap, Stat1) post-axotomy, the expression for all but one was down-regulated by 2-weeks post-injury. We also compared the uninjured TPS control neurons to the uninjured LDPT neurons used in this experiment for phenotypic differences between these two subpopulations of propriospinal neurons. We found significant differences in expression in 37 of the 84 genes examined between these two subpopulations of propriospinal neurons with LDPT neurons exhibiting a significantly higher base line expression for all but 3 of these genes compared to TPS neurons.

Conclusions

Taken collectively these data indicate a broad overall down-regulation in the genes examined, including genes for neurotrophic/growth factor receptors as well as for several growth factors. There was a lack of a significant regenerative response, with the exception of an up-regulation of Atf3 and early up-regulation of Hspb1 (Hsp27), both involved in cell stress/neuroprotection as well as axonal regeneration. There was no indication of a cell death response over the first month post-injury. In addition, there appear to be significant phenotypic differences between uninjured TPS and LDPT neurons, which may partly account for the differences observed in their post-axotomy responses. The findings in this current study stand in stark contrast to the findings from our previous work on TPS neurons. This suggests that different approaches will be needed to enhance the capacity for each population of propriospinal neuron to survive and undergo successful axonal regeneration after SCI.