Open Access Research article

ATF3 upregulation in glia during Wallerian degeneration: differential expression in peripheral nerves and CNS white matter

David Hunt12*, Kismet Hossain-Ibrahim1, Matthew RJ Mason12, Robert S Coffin2, AR Lieberman1, Julia Winterbottom1 and PN Anderson1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK

2 Department of Immunology and Molecular Pathology, The Windeyer Institute, University College London, Cleveland Street, London W1T 4JF, UK

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BMC Neuroscience 2004, 5:9  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-5-9

Published: 4 March 2004

Abstract

Background

Many changes in gene expression occur in distal stumps of injured nerves but the transcriptional control of these events is poorly understood. We have examined the expression of the transcription factors ATF3 and c-Jun by non-neuronal cells during Wallerian degeneration following injury to sciatic nerves, dorsal roots and optic nerves of rats and mice, using immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization.

Results

Following sciatic nerve injury – transection or transection and reanastomosis – ATF3 was strongly upregulated by endoneurial, but not perineurial cells, of the distal stumps of the nerves by 1 day post operation (dpo) and remained strongly expressed in the endoneurium at 30 dpo when axonal regeneration was prevented. Most ATF3+ cells were immunoreactive for the Schwann cell marker, S100. When the nerve was transected and reanastomosed, allowing regeneration of axons, most ATF3 expression had been downregulated by 30 dpo. ATF3 expression was weaker in the proximal stumps of the injured nerves than in the distal stumps and present in fewer cells at all times after injury. ATF3 was upregulated by endoneurial cells in the distal stumps of injured neonatal rat sciatic nerves, but more weakly than in adult animals. ATF3 expression in transected sciatic nerves of mice was similar to that in rats. Following dorsal root injury in adult rats, ATF3 was upregulated in the part of the root between the lesion and the spinal cord (containing Schwann cells), beginning at 1 dpo, but not in the dorsal root entry zone or in the degenerating dorsal column of the spinal cord. Following optic nerve crush in adult rats, ATF3 was found in some cells at the injury site and small numbers of cells within the optic nerve displayed weak immunoreactivity. The pattern of expression of c-Jun in all types of nerve injury was similar to that of ATF3.

Conclusion

These findings raise the possibility that ATF3/c-Jun heterodimers may play a role in regulating changes in gene expression necessary for preparing the distal segments of injured peripheral nerves for axonal regeneration. The absence of the ATF3 and c-Jun from CNS glia during Wallerian degeneration may limit their ability to support regeneration.