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Mol Cell Neurosci. 2002 Nov;21(3):436-53.

Macrophages and Microglia Produce Local Trophic Gradients That Stimulate Axonal Sprouting Toward but Not beyond the Wound Edge.

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  • 1Departments of Medicine, Neurology, The University of Melbourne, Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre, Heidelberg, Victoria, 3084, Australia.


Following injury to the mammalian CNS, axons sprout in the vicinity of the wound margin. Growth then ceases and axons fail to cross the lesion site. In this study, using dopaminergic sprouting in the injured striatum as a model system, we have examined the relationship of periwound sprouting fibers to reactive glia and macrophages. In the first week after injury we find that sprouting fibers form intimate relationships with activated microglia as they traverse toward the wound edge. Once at the wound edge, complicated plexuses of fibers form around individual macrophages. Axons, however, fail to grow further into the interior of the wound despite the presence of many macrophages in this location. We find that the expression of BDNF by activated microglia progressively increases as the wound edge is approached, while GDNF expression by macrophages is highest at the immediate wound margin. In contrast, the expression of both factors is substantially reduced within the macrophage-filled interior of the wound. Our data suggest that periwound sprouting fibers grow toward the wound margin along an increasing trophic gradient generated by progressively microglial and macrophage activation. Once at the wound edge, sprouting ceases over macrophages at the point of maximal neurotrophic factor expression and further axonal growth into the relatively poor trophic environment of the wound core fails to occur.

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