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Cell Tissue Res. 2012 Jul;349(1):119-32. doi: 10.1007/s00441-012-1334-7. Epub 2012 Feb 21.

Small-molecule-induced Rho-inhibition: NSAIDs after spinal cord injury.

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Department of Neurology and Experimental Neurology, Spinal Cord Injury Research, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Charitéplatz 1, 10117 Berlin, Germany.


Limited axonal plasticity within the central nervous system (CNS) is a major restriction for functional recovery after CNS injury. The small GTPase RhoA is a key molecule of the converging downstream cascade that leads to the inhibition of axonal re-growth. The Rho-pathway integrates growth inhibitory signals derived from extracellular cues, such as chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans, Nogo-A, myelin-associated glycoprotein, oligodendrocyte-myelin glycoprotein, Ephrins and repulsive guidance molecule-A, into the damaged axon. Consequently, the activation of RhoA results in growth cone collapse and finally outgrowth failure. In turn, the inhibition of RhoA-activation blinds the injured axon to its growth inhibitory environment resulting in enhanced axonal sprouting and plasticity. This has been demonstrated in various CNS-injury models for direct RhoA-inhibition and for downstream/upstream blockade of the RhoA-associated pathway. In addition, RhoA-inhibition reduces apoptotic cell death and secondary damage and improves locomotor recovery in clinically relevant models after experimental spinal cord injury (SCI). Unexpectedly, a subset of "small molecules" from the group of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, particularly the FDA-approved ibuprofen, has recently been identified as (1) inhibiting RhoA-activation, (2) enhancing axonal sprouting/regeneration, (3) protecting "tissue at risk" (neuroprotection) and (4) improving motor recovery confined to realistic therapeutical time-frames in clinically relevant SCI models. Here, we survey the effect of small-molecule-induced RhoA-inhibition on axonal plasticity and neurofunctional outcome in CNS injury paradigms. Furthermore, we discuss the body of preclinical evidence for a possible clinical translation with a focus on ibuprofen and illustrate putative risks and benefits for the treatment of acute SCI.

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