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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.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





19664 - 19676


DRG neurons, Smad1, axon regeneration, conditioning lesion, epigenetic regulation, spinal cord injury, Acetylation, Animals, Axons, Disease Models, Animal, Epigenesis, Genetic, Ganglia, Spinal, Histones, Mice, Nerve Regeneration, Sensory Receptor Cells, Spinal Cord Injuries