Altered gene expression after optic nerve transection: Reduced neurofilament expression as a general response to axonal injury

Paul N. Hoffman, Stephen C. Pollock, Gerald G. Striph

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38 Scopus citations


Previous studies have shown that axonal injury (axotomy) in neurons of the mammalian peripheral nervous system (PNS) results in a recapitulation of the developmental program for cytoskeletal gene expression; these changes include the increased expression of a developmentally regulated isotype of β-tubulin (class II) and reduced neurofilament (NF) expression. In the present study we examined the abundance of mRNAs encoding the low-molecular-weight NF protein (NF-L) and class II β-tubulin in RNA purified from the retinae of newborn rats, from the retinae of adult rats at 2, 7, and 14 days after intracranial transection of the ipsilateral optic nerve, and from contralateral control retinae. In order to facilitate comparison with representative PNS neurons, parallel analyses were carried out in axotomized dorsal root ganglion (DRG) sensory neurons. Since NF-L and class II β-tubulin are neuron-specific proteins, axotomy-induced alterations in the levels of retinal mRNAs encoding these proteins largely reflect corresponding changes in expression by retinal ganglion cell neurons. Comparison of retinal RNA from newborn and adult (70-day-old) animals demonstrated a postnatal increase in NF-L and a decline in class II β-tubulin mRNAs comparable to those previously described in DRG neurons, Reductions in NF-L mRNA levels were noted in retina at 2, 7, and 14 days after axotomy and in DRG neurons at 7 and 14 days after axotomy. The abundance of class II β-tubulin mRNAs increased after axotomy in DRG neurons, but not in retina. These observations suggest that reduced NF gene expression represents a general response to axonal injury which is unrelated to the neuron’s capacity for either survival or effective axon regeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-36
Number of pages5
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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