, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 1-14

Tenascin-C expression during Wallerian degeneration in C57BL/Wlds mice: possible implications for axonal regeneration

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Schwann cells in the distal stumps of lesioned peripheral nerves strongly express the extracellular matrix glycoprotein tenascin-C. To gain insights into the relationship between Wallerian degeneration, lesion induced tenascin-C upregulation and regrowth of axons we have investigated C57BL/Wlds (C57BL/Ola) mice, a mutant in which Wallerian degeneration is considerably delayed. Since we found a distinct difference in the speed of Wallerian degeneration between muscle nerves and cutaneous nerves in 16-week-old C57BL/Wlds mice, as opposed to 6-week-old animals in which Wallerian degeneration is delayed in both, we chose the older animals for closer investigation. Five days post lesion tenascin-C was upregulated in the muscle branch (quadriceps) but not in the cutaneous branch (saphenous) of the femoral nerve in 16-week-old animals. In addition myelomonocytic cells displaying endogenous peroxidase activity invaded the muscle branch readily whereas they were absent from the cutaneous branch at this time. We could further show that it is only a subpopulation of axon-Schwann cell units (mainly muscle efferents) in the muscle branch which undergo Wallerian degeneration and upregulate tenascin-C at normal speed and that the remaining axon-Schwann cell units (mainly afferents) displayed delayed Wallerian degeneration and no tenascin-C expression. Regrowing axons could only be found in the tenascin-C-positive muscle branch where they always grew in association with axon-Schwann cell units undergoing Wallerian degeneration. These observations indicate a tight relationship between Wallerian degeneration, upregulation of tenascin-C expression and regrowth of axons, suggesting an involvement of tenascin-C in peripheral nerve regeneration.