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J Anat. 2004 Jan;204(1):33-48.

Chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans: preventing plasticity or protecting the CNS?

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Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, University of Cambridge, UK.


It is well established that axonal regeneration in the adult CNS is largely unsuccessful. Numerous axon-inhibitory molecules are now known to be present in the injured CNS, and various strategies for overcoming these obstacles and enhancing CNS regeneration have been experimentally developed. Recently, the use of chondroitinase-ABC to treat models of CNS injury in vivo has proven to be highly beneficial towards regenerating axons, by degrading the axon-inhibitory chondroitin sulphate glycosaminoglycan chains found on many proteoglycans in the astroglial scar. This enzyme has now been shown to restore synaptic plasticity in the visual cortex of adult rats by disrupting perineuronal nets, which contain high levels of chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans (CS-PGs) and are expressed postnatally around groups of certain neurons in the normal CNS. The findings suggest exciting prospects for enhancing growth and plasticity in the adult CNS; however, some protective roles of CS-PGs in the CNS have also been demonstrated. Clearly many questions concerning the mechanisms regulating expression of extracellular matrix molecules in CNS pathology remain to be answered.

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