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Exp Neurol. 2008 Jul;212(1):189-200. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2008.03.028. Epub 2008 Apr 15.

Minocycline protects Schwann cells from ischemia-like injury and promotes axonal outgrowth in bioartificial nerve grafts lacking Wallerian degeneration.

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  • 1Institute of Medical Neurobiology, University of Magdeburg, Leipziger Strasse 44, D-39120 Magdeburg, Germany.


Minocycline, a broad-spectrum antimicrobial tetracycline, acts neuroprotectively in ischemia. Recently, however, minocycline has been revealed to have ambiguous effects on nerve regeneration. Thus its effects in a rat sciatic nerve transplantation model and on cultivated Schwann cells stressed by oxygen glucose deprivation (OGD) were studied. The negative effect of minocycline on Wallerian degeneration, the essential initial phase of degeneration/regeneration after nerve injury, that was recently demonstrated, was excluded by using predegenerated nerve and Schwann cell-enriched muscle grafts, both free of Wallerian degeneration. They were compared with common nerve grafts. The principle findings were that in vitro minocycline provided protective effects against OGD-induced death of Schwann cells by preventing permeability of the mitochondrial membrane. It suppressed the OGD-mediated induction of HIF-1alpha and BAX, and stabilized/induced BCL-2. Cytochrome c release and cleavage of procaspase-3 were diminished; release and translocation of AIF and cytotoxic cleavage of actin into fractin were stopped. In common nerve grafts, minocycline, besides its direct anti-ischemic effect, hampered revascularization by down-regulation of MMP9 and VEGF prolonging ischemia and impeding macrophage recruitment. In bioartificial nerve grafts that were free of Wallerian degeneration and revealed lower immunogenicity, minocycline aided the regeneration process. Here, the direct anti-ischemic effect of minocycline on Schwann cells, which are mandatory for successful peripheral nerve regeneration, dominated the systemic anti-angiogenic/pro-ischemic effects. In common nerve grafts, however, where Wallerian degeneration is a prerequisite, the anti-angiogenic and macrophage-depressing effect is an obstacle for regeneration.

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