Journal of Neurocytology

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 93-120

The Nogo receptor, its ligands and axonal regeneration in the spinal cord; A review

  • D. HuntAffiliated withDepartment of Immunology and Molecular Pathology, The Windeyer Institute, University College LondonDepartment of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, University College London
  • , R.S. CoffinAffiliated withDepartment of Immunology and Molecular Pathology, The Windeyer Institute, University College London
  • , P.N. AndersonAffiliated withDepartment of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, University College London

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At least three proteins present in CNS myelin, Nogo, MAG and OMgp are capable of causing growth cone collapse and inhibiting neurite outgrowth in vitro. Surprisingly, Nogo and OMgp are also strongly expressed by many neurons (including neocortical projection cells). Nogo expression is increased by some cells at the borders of CNS lesion sites and by cells in injured peripheral nerves, but Nogo and CNS myelin are largely absent from spinal cord injury sites, which are none the less strongly inhibitory to axonal regeneration. Nogo is found on growing axons during development, suggesting possible functions for neuronal Nogo in axon guidance. Although Nogo, MAG and OMgp lack sequence homologies, they all bind to the Nogo receptor (NgR), a GPI-linked cell surface molecule which, in turn, binds p75 to activate RhoA. NgR is strongly expressed by cerebral cortical neurons but many other neurons express NgR weakly or not at all. Some neurons, such as DRG cells, respond to Nogo and CNS myelin in vitro although they express little or no NgR in vivo which, with other data, indicates that other receptors are available for NgR ligands. NgR expression is unaffected by injury to the nervous system, and there is no clear correlation between NgR expression by neurons and lack of regenerative ability. In the injured spinal cord, interactions between NgR and its ligands are most likely to be important for limiting regeneration of corticospinal and some other descending tracts; other receptors may be more important for ascending tracts. Antibodies to Nogo, mainly the poorly-characterised IN-1 or its derivatives, have been shown to enhance recovery from partial transections of the spinal cord. They induce considerable plasticity from the axons of corticospinal neurons, including sprouting across the midline and, to a limited extent, regeneration around the lesion. Regeneration of corticospinal axons induced by Nogo antibodies has not yet been demonstrated after complete transections or contusion injuries of the spinal cord. It is not clear whether antibodies against Nogo act on oligodendrocytes/myelin or by binding to neuronal Nogo, or whether they can stimulate regeneration of ascending axons in the spinal cord, most of which express little or no NgR. Despite these uncertainties, however, NgR and its ligands offer important new targets for enhancing plasticity and regeneration in the nervous system.