After CNS injuries, axon growth inhibitors from the myelin and the scar tissue at the injury site are considered major impediments to axon regeneration. The presence of several classes of inhibitors with multiple members in each class suggests functional redundancy in growth inhibition. To test redundancy within the myelin inhibitory pathway, we analyzed raphe spinal serotonergic (5-HT) axon regeneration in mice deficient in two major myelin inhibitors, Nogo and MAG, and their common receptor NgR1 (or NgR). After a complete transection spinal cord injury, there was no significant enhancement of 5-HT axon regeneration beyond the injury site in either Nogo/MAG/NgR1 triple mutants or NgR1 single mutants. Occasional, genotype-independent traversal of 5-HT axons through GFAP-positive tissue bridges at the injury site implicates GFAP-negative lesion areas as especially inhibitory to 5-HT axons. To assess the contribution of class 3 Semaphorins that are expressed by GFAP-negative meningeal fibroblasts at the injury site, we analyzed mice deficient in PlexinA3 and PlexinA4, two key receptors for class 3 Semaphorins, with or without additional NgR1 deletion. No enhanced regeneration of 5-HT or corticospinal axons was detected in PlexinA3/PlexinA4 double mutants or PlexinA3/PlexinA4/NgR1 triple mutants through a complete transection injury. In contrast with previous reports, these data demonstrate that attenuating myelin or Semaphorin-mediated inhibition of axon growth is insufficient to promote 5-HT axon regeneration and further indicate that even attenuating both classes of inhibitory influences is insufficient to promote regeneration of injured axons through a complete transection spinal cord injury.
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