Updates and challenges of axon regeneration in the mammalian central nervous system

Cheng Qian, Feng Quan Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Axon regeneration in the mammalian central nervous system (CNS) has been a long-standing and highly challenging issue. Successful CNS axon regeneration will benefit many human diseases involving axonal damage, such as spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, glaucoma, and neurodegenerative diseases. The current consensus is that the diminished intrinsic regenerative ability in mature CNS neurons and the presence of extrinsic inhibitors blocking axon regrowth are two major barriers for axon regeneration. During the past decade, studies targeting the intrinsic axon growth ability via regulation of gene transcription have produced very promising results in optic nerve and/or spinal cord regeneration. Manipulations of various signaling pathways or the nuclear transcription factors directly have been shown to sufficiently drive CNS axon regrowth. Converging evidence reveals that some pro-regenerative transcriptomic states, which are commonly accomplished by more comprehensive epigenetic regulations, exist to orchestrate the complex tasks of injury sensing and axon regeneration. Moreover, genetic reprogramming achieved via transcriptome and epigenome modifications provides novel mechanisms for enhancing axon regeneration. Recent studies also highlighted the important roles of remodeling neuronal cytoskeleton in overcoming the extrinsic inhibitory cues. However, our knowledge about the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which neurons regulate their intrinsic axon regeneration ability and response to extrinsic inhibitory cues is still fragmented. Here, we provide an update about recent research progress in axon regeneration and discuss major remaining challenges for long-distance axon regeneration and the subsequent functional recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)798-806
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of molecular cell biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • axon regeneration
  • epigenetic
  • glaucoma
  • optic nerve regeneration
  • reprogramming
  • spinal cord regeneration
  • transcription factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology


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