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Sci Rep. 2019 Mar 6;9(1):3715. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-39551-1.

Mouse mast cell protease 4 suppresses scar formation after traumatic spinal cord injury.

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Department of Morphology, Biomedical Research Institute, Hasselt University, Diepenbeek, Belgium.
Health Science Centre, School of Medicine, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.
Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.
Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.
Department of Morphology, Biomedical Research Institute, Hasselt University, Diepenbeek, Belgium.


Spinal cord injury (SCI) triggers the formation of a glial and fibrotic scar, which creates a major barrier for neuroregenerative processes. Previous findings indicate that mast cells (MCs) protect the spinal cord after mechanical damage by suppressing detrimental inflammatory processes via mouse mast cell protease 4 (mMCP4), a MC-specific chymase. In addition to these immunomodulatory properties, mMCP4 also plays an important role in tissue remodeling and extracellular matrix degradation. Therefore, we have investigated the effects of mMCP4 on the scarring response after SCI. We demonstrate that the decrease in locomotor performance in mMCP4-/- mice is correlated with excessive scar formation at the lesion. The expression of axon-growth inhibitory chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans was dramatically increased in the perilesional area in mMCP4-/- mice compared to wild type mice. Moreover, the fibronectin-, laminin-, and collagen IV-positive scar was significantly enlarged in mMCP4-/- mice at the lesion center. A degradation assay revealed that mMCP4 directly cleaves collagen IV in vitro. On the gene expression level, neurocan and GFAP were significantly higher in the mMCP4-/- group at day 2 and day 28 after injury respectively. In contrast, the expression of fibronectin and collagen IV was reduced in mMCP4-/- mice compared to WT mice at day 7 after SCI. In conclusion, our data show that mMCP4 modulates scar development after SCI by altering the gene and protein expression patterns of key scar factors in vivo. Therefore, we suggest a new mechanism via which endogenous mMCP4 can improve recovery after SCI.

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