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Front Cell Neurosci. 2019 May 8;13:182. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2019.00182. eCollection 2019.

Spatiotemporal Differences in Gene Expression Between Motor and Sensory Autografts and Their Effect on Femoral Nerve Regeneration in the Rat.

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Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Experimental and Clinical Traumatology, Vienna, Austria.
Austrian Cluster for Tissue Regeneration, Vienna, Austria.
Centro de Medicina Regenerativa, Facultad de Medicina Clínica Alemana-Universidad del Desarrollo, Santiago, Chile.
Department of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary.


To improve the outcome after autologous nerve grafting in the clinic, it is important to understand the limiting variables such as distinct phenotypes of motor and sensory Schwann cells. This study investigated the properties of phenotypically different autografts in a 6 mm femoral nerve defect model in the rat, where the respective femoral branches distally of the inguinal bifurcation served as homotopic, or heterotopic autografts. Axonal regeneration and target reinnervation was analyzed by gait analysis, electrophysiology, and wet muscle mass analysis. We evaluated regeneration-associated gene expression between 5 days and 10 weeks after repair, in the autografts as well as the proximal, and distal segments of the femoral nerve using qRT-PCR. Furthermore we investigated expression patterns of phenotypically pure ventral and dorsal roots. We identified highly significant differences in gene expression of a variety of regeneration-associated genes along the central - peripheral axis in healthy femoral nerves. Phenotypically mismatched grafting resulted in altered spatiotemporal expression of neurotrophic factor BDNF, GDNF receptor GFRα1, cell adhesion molecules Cadm3, Cadm4, L1CAM, and proliferation associated Ki67. Although significantly higher quadriceps muscle mass following homotopic nerve grafting was measured, we did not observe differences in gait analysis, and electrophysiological parameters between treatment paradigms. Our study provides evidence for phenotypic commitment of autologous nerve grafts after injury and gives a conclusive overview of temporal expression of several important regeneration-associated genes after repair with sensory or motor graft.


Schwann cell; cell adhesion molecule; femoral nerve; gene expression; neurotrophic factor; peripheral nerve regeneration; phenotype

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