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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Dec 21;101(51):17843-8. Epub 2004 Dec 10.

A role for MHC class I molecules in synaptic plasticity and regeneration of neurons after axotomy.

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Department of Neuroscience and Department of Microbiology, Tumor Biology Center, and Strategic Research Center IRIS, Karolinska Institutet, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden.


Recently, MHC class I molecules have been shown to be important for the retraction of synaptic connections that normally occurs during development [Huh, G.S., Boulanger, L. M., Du, H., Riquelme, P. A., Brotz, T. M. & Shatz, C. J. (2000) Science 290, 2155-2158]. In the adult CNS, a classical response of neurons to axon lesion is the detachment of synapses from the cell body and dendrites. We have investigated whether MHC I molecules are involved also in this type of synaptic detachment by studying the synaptic input to sciatic motoneurons at 1 week after peripheral nerve transection in beta2-microglobulin or transporter associated with antigen processing 1-null mutant mice, in which cell surface MHC I expression is impaired. Surprisingly, lesioned motoneurons in mutant mice showed more extensive synaptic detachments than those in wild-type animals. This surplus removal of synapses was entirely directed toward inhibitory synapses assembled in clusters. In parallel, a significantly smaller population of motoneurons reinnervated the distal stump of the transected sciatic nerve in mutants. MHC I molecules, which traditionally have been linked with immunological mechanisms, are thus crucial for a selective maintenance of synapses during the synaptic removal process in neurons after lesion, and the lack of MHC I expression may impede the ability of neurons to regenerate axons.

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