Epigenetic regulation of sensory axon regeneration after spinal cord injury.
Finelli MJ., Wong JK., Zou H.
Axon regeneration is hindered by a decline of intrinsic axon growth capability in mature neurons. Reversing this decline is associated with the induction of a large repertoire of regeneration-associated genes (RAGs), but the underlying regulatory mechanisms of the transcriptional changes are largely unknown. Here, we establish a correlation between diminished axon growth potential and histone 4 (H4) hypoacetylation. When neurons are triggered into a growth state, as in the conditioning lesion paradigm, H4 acetylation is restored, and RAG transcription is initiated. We have identified a set of target genes of Smad1, a proregenerative transcription factor, in conditioned DRG neurons. We also show that, during the epigenetic reprogramming process, histone-modifying enzymes work together with Smad1 to facilitate transcriptional regulation of RAGs. Importantly, targeted pharmacological modulation of the activity of histone-modifying enzymes, such as histone deacetylases, leads to induction of multiple RAGs and promotion of sensory axon regeneration in a mouse model of spinal cord injury. Our findings suggest epigenetic modulation as a potential therapeutic strategy to enhance axon regeneration.