Conditioning Injury-Induced Spinal Axon Regeneration Fails in Interleukin-6 Knock-Out Mice

William B J Cafferty, Natalie J. Gardiner, Partha Das, Jin Qiu, Stephen B. McMahon, Stephen W N Thompson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Regeneration of injured adult sensory neurons within the CNS is essentially abortive, attributable in part to lesion-induced or revealed inhibitors such as the chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans and the myelin inhibitors (Nogo-A, MAG, and OMgp). Much of this inhibition maybe overcome by boosting the growth status of sensory neurons by delivering a conditioning lesion to their peripheral branches. Here, we identify a key role for the lesion-induced cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in mediating conditioning lesion-induced enhanced regeneration of injured dorsal column afferents. In adult mice, conditioning injury to the sciatic nerve 1 week before bilateral dorsal column crush resulted in regeneration of dorsal column axons up to and beyond the injury site into host CNS tissue. This enhanced growth state was accompanied by an increase in the expression of the growth-associated protein GAP43 in preinjured but not intact dorsal root ganglia (DRGs). Preconditioning injury of the sciatic nerve in IL-6-/- mice resulted in the total failure in regeneration of dorsal column axons consequent on the lack of GAP43 upregulation after a preconditioning injury. DRGs cell counts and cholera toxin β subunit labeling revealed that impaired regeneration in knock-out mice was unrelated to cell loss or a deficit in tracer transport. In vitro, exogenous IL-6 boosted sensory neuron growth status as evidenced by enhanced neurite extension. This effect required NGF or NT-3 but not soluble IL-6 receptor as cofactors. Evidence of conditioning lesion-enhanced growth status of DRGs cells can also be observed in vitro as an earlier and enhanced rate of neurite extension; this phenomenon fails in IL-6-/- mice preinjured 7 d in vivo. We suggest that injury-induced IL-6 upregulation is required to promote regeneration within the CNS. Our results indicate that this is achieved through a boosted growth state of dorsal column projecting sensory neurons.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4432-4443
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Neuroscience
    Issue number18
    Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2004


    • Axotomy
    • CNS
    • Conditioning lesion
    • Dorsal root ganglia
    • IL-6 (interleukin-6)
    • Regeneration


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