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Exp Neurol. 1997 Jul;146(1):81-90.

Effects of extracellular matrix components on axonal outgrowth from peripheral nerves of adult animals in vitro.

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Physiology Group, King's College, London, United Kingdom.


Relatively little is known of the growth requirements for regenerating axons of the peripheral nervous system of adult animals. In the present study, we show that extracellular matrix material secreted by the Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm tumor cell line (matrigel) supports axonal growth from explanted peripheral nerve-dorsal root ganglia (DRG) preparations of adult mice and amphibia in serum-free media, without addition of growth factors. Axonal growth in matrigel was much more profuse than that in the more commonly used gels of type 1 collagen and, after some days in culture, was accompanied by migration of Schwann cells along axons. The most abundant protein in matrigel is laminin, which has been shown in many studies to support axonal growth but, surprisingly, antisera to laminin did not inhibit axonal growth in matrigel. To determine the ability of the major components of matrigel, laminin, type IV collagen, and heparan sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG), to support axonal growth, these proteins were added to preparations of mouse peripheral nerve-DRGs in type I collagen gels. Regenerating axons were significantly longer in the presence of laminin and type IV collagen than in control cultures, while HSPG had a slight inhibitory effect. In this assay system, however, diluted matrigel solution was even more effective in stimulating axonal growth than laminin or type IV collagen, either alone or in combination. The results suggest that in addition to laminin and type IV collagen, other components within matrigel may contribute to its ability to support axonal growth.

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