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Exp Neurol. 2012 Apr;234(2):513-20. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2012.01.026. Epub 2012 Feb 6.

Increased atypical PKC expression and activity in the phrenic motor nucleus following cervical spinal injury.

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  • 1Department of Comparative Biosciences, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Atypical protein kinase C (aPKC) isoforms are expressed in phrenic motor neurons, a group of motor neurons critical for breathing. Following C2 cervical hemisection (C2HS), spontaneous plasticity occurs in crossed-spinal synaptic pathways to phrenic motor neurons, at least partially restoring inspiratory phrenic activity below the injury. Since aPKCs are necessary for synaptic plasticity in other systems, we tested the hypothesis that C2HS increases aPKC expression and activity in spinal regions associated with the phrenic motor nucleus. C2 laminectomy (sham) or C2HS was performed on adult, male Lewis rats. Ventral spinal segments C3-5 were harvested 1, 3 or 28 days post-surgery, and prepared for aPKC enzyme activity assays and immunoblots. Ventral cervical aPKC activity was elevated 1 and 28, but not 3, days post-C2HS (1 day: 63% vs sham ipsilateral to injury; p<0.05; 28 day: 426% vs sham; p<0.05; no difference in ipsilateral vs contralateral response). Total PKCζ/ι protein expression was unchanged by C2HS, but total and phosphorylated PKMζ (constitutively active PKCζ isoform) increased ipsilateral to injury 28 days post-C2HS (p<0.05). Ipsilateral aPKC activity and expression were strongly correlated (r(2)=0.675, p<0.001). In a distinct group of rats, immunohistochemistry confirmed that aPKCs are expressed in neurons 28 days post-C2HS, including large, presumptive phrenic motor neurons; aPKCs were not detected in adjacent microglia (OX-42 positive cells) or astrocytes (GFAP positive cells). Changes in aPKC expression in the phrenic motor nucleus following C2HS suggests that aPKCs may contribute to functional recovery following cervical spinal injury.

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