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Prog Neurobiol. 2007 Jan;81(1):1-28. Epub 2006 Dec 22.

Regulation of intrinsic neuronal properties for axon growth and regeneration.

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Rita Levi Montalcini Centre for Brain Repair, Department of Neuroscience, University of Turin, Corso Raffaello 30, I-10125 Turin, Italy.


Regulation of neuritic growth is crucial for neural development, adaptation and repair. The intrinsic growth potential of nerve cells is determined by the activity of specific molecular sets, which sense environmental signals and sustain structural extension of neurites. The expression and function of these molecules are dynamically regulated by multiple mechanisms, which adjust the actual growth properties of each neuron population at different ontogenetic stages or in specific conditions. The neuronal potential for axon elongation and regeneration are restricted at the end of development by the concurrent action of several factors associated with the final maturation of neurons and of the surrounding tissue. In the adult, neuronal growth properties can be significantly modulated by injury, but they are also continuously tuned in everyday life to sustain physiological plasticity. Strict regulation of structural remodelling and neuritic elongation is thought to be required to maintain specific patterns of connectivity in the highly complex mammalian CNS. Accordingly, procedures that neutralize such mechanisms effectively boost axon growth in both intact and injured nervous system. Even in these conditions, however, aberrant connections are only formed in the presence of unusual external stimuli or experience. Therefore, growth regulatory mechanisms play an essentially permissive role by setting the responsiveness of neural circuits to environmental stimuli. The latter exert an instructive action and determine the actual shape of newly formed connections. In the light of this notion, efficient therapeutic interventions in the injured CNS should combine targeted manipulations of growth control mechanisms with task-specific training and rehabilitation paradigms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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