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Regeneration of diabetic axons is enhanced by selective knockdown of the PTEN gene

Bhagat Singh, Vandana Singh, Anand Krishnan, Kurien Koshy, Jose A. Martinez, Chu Cheng, Chris Almquist, Douglas W. Zochodne
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awu031 1051-1067 First published online: 27 February 2014

Summary

Diabetes mellitus renders both widespread and localized irreversible damage to peripheral axons while imposing critical limitations on their ability to regenerate. A major failure of regenerative capacity thereby imposes a ‘double hit’ in diabetic patients who frequently develop focal neuropathies such as carpal tunnel syndrome in addition to generalized diffuse polyneuropathy. The mechanisms of diabetic neuron regenerative failure have been speculative and few approaches have offered therapeutic opportunities. In this work we identify an unexpected but major role for PTEN upregulation in diabetic peripheral neurons in attenuating axon regrowth. In chronic diabetic neuropathy models in mice, we identified significant PTEN upregulation in peripheral sensory neurons of messenger RNA and protein compared to littermate controls. In vitro, sensory neurons from these mice responded to PTEN knockdown with substantial rises in neurite outgrowth and branching. To test regenerative plasticity in a chronic diabetic model with established neuropathy, we superimposed an additional focal sciatic nerve crush injury and assessed morphological, electrophysiological and behavioural recovery. Knockdown of PTEN in dorsal root ganglia ipsilateral to the side of injury was achieved using a unique form of non-viral short interfering RNA delivery to the ipsilateral nerve injury site and paw. In comparison with scrambled sequence control short interfering RNA, PTEN short interfering RNA improved several facets of regeneration: recovery of compound muscle action potentials, reflecting numbers of reconnected motor axons to endplates, conduction velocities of both motor and sensory axons, reflecting their maturation during regrowth, numbers and calibre of regenerating myelinated axons distal to the injury site, reinnervation of the skin by unmyelinated epidermal axons and recovery of mechanical sensation. Collectively, these findings identify a novel therapeutic approach, potentially applicable to other neurological conditions requiring specific forms of molecular knockdown, and also identify a unique target, PTEN, to treat diabetic neuroregenerative failure.

  • diabetic polyneuropathy
  • diabetes
  • peripheral nervous system
  • peripheral nerve
  • axonal injury
  • Abbreviations
    CMAP
    compound muscle action potential
    siRNA
    short interfering RNA
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