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Open Access Research article

Neuronal deletion of GSK3β increases microtubule speed in the growth cone and enhances axon regeneration via CRMP-2 and independently of MAP1B and CLASP2

Márcia A Liz1, Fernando M Mar12, Telma E Santos1, Helena I Pimentel1, Ana M Marques1, Marlene M Morgado1, Sílvia Vieira1, Vera F Sousa12, Hayley Pemble3, Torsten Wittmann3, Calum Sutherland4, James R Woodgett5 and Mónica M Sousa1*

Author Affiliations

1 Nerve Regeneration Group, IBMC - Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular, 4150-180 Porto, Portugal

2 Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar – ICBAS, 4050-313 Porto, Portugal

3 Department of Cell and Tissue Biology, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94145, USA

4 Diabetic and Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Dundee, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee DD1 9SY, UK

5 Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5G 1X5, Canada

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BMC Biology 2014, 12:47  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-12-47

Published: 12 June 2014



In the adult central nervous system, axonal regeneration is abortive. Regulators of microtubule dynamics have emerged as attractive targets to promote axonal growth following injury as microtubule organization is pivotal for growth cone formation. In this study, we used conditioned neurons with high regenerative capacity to further dissect cytoskeletal mechanisms that might be involved in the gain of intrinsic axon growth capacity.


Following a phospho-site broad signaling pathway screen, we found that in conditioned neurons with high regenerative capacity, decreased glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β) activity and increased microtubule growth speed in the growth cone were present. To investigate the importance of GSK3β regulation during axonal regeneration in vivo, we used three genetic mouse models with high, intermediate or no GSK3β activity in neurons. Following spinal cord injury, reduced GSK3β levels or complete neuronal deletion of GSK3β led to increased growth cone microtubule growth speed and promoted axon regeneration. While several microtubule-interacting proteins are GSK3β substrates, phospho-mimetic collapsin response mediator protein 2 (T/D-CRMP-2) was sufficient to decrease microtubule growth speed and neurite outgrowth of conditioned neurons and of GSK3β-depleted neurons, prevailing over the effect of decreased levels of phosphorylated microtubule-associated protein 1B (MAP1B) and through a mechanism unrelated to decreased levels of phosphorylated cytoplasmic linker associated protein 2 (CLASP2). In addition, phospho-resistant T/A-CRMP-2 counteracted the inhibitory myelin effect on neurite growth, further supporting the GSK3β-CRMP-2 relevance during axon regeneration.


Our work shows that increased microtubule growth speed in the growth cone is present in conditions of increased axonal growth, and is achieved following inactivation of the GSK3β-CRMP-2 pathway, enhancing axon regeneration through the glial scar. In this context, our results support that a precise control of microtubule dynamics, specifically in the growth cone, is required to optimize axon regrowth.

GSK3β; CRMP-2; Growth cone; Microtubule; Axon regeneration