Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Macrophage presence is essential for the regeneration of ascending afferent fibres following a conditioning sciatic nerve lesion in adult rats

Ernesto A Aguilar Salegio, Anthony N Pollard, Malcolm Smith and Xin-Fu Zhou*

Author Affiliations

Department of Human Physiology and Centre for Neuroscience, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, Australia

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BMC Neuroscience 2011, 12:11  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-12-11

Published: 20 January 2011



Injury to the peripheral branch of dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons prior to injury to the central nervous system (CNS) DRG branch results in the regeneration of the central branch. The exact mechanism mediating this regenerative trigger is not fully understood. It has been proposed that following peripheral injury, the intraganglionic inflammatory response by macrophage cells plays an important role in the pre-conditioning of injured CNS neurons to regenerate. In this study, we investigated whether the presence of macrophage cells is crucial for this type of regeneration to occur. We used a clodronate liposome technique to selectively and temporarily deplete these cells during the conditioning phase of DRG neurons.


Retrograde and anterograde tracing results indicated that in macrophage-depleted animals, the regenerative trigger characteristic of pre-conditioned DRG neurons was abolished as compared to injury matched-control animals. In addition, depletion of macrophage cells led to: (i) a reduction in macrophage infiltration into the CNS compartment even after cellular repopulation, (ii) astrocyte up-regulation at rostral regions and down-regulation in brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) concentration in the serum.


Activation of macrophage cells in response to the peripheral nerve injury is essential for the enhanced regeneration of ascending sensory neurons.