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Keywords:

  • nerve regeneration;
  • cell transplantation;
  • peripheral nerve injury

Abstract

Phenotypic differences in Schwann cells (SCs) may help to guide axonal regeneration down motor or sensory specific pathways following peripheral nerve injury. The goal of this study was to identify phenotypic markers for SCs harvested from the cutaneous (sensory) and quadriceps (motor) branches of the rat femoral nerve and to study the effects of expansion culture on the expression patterns of these motor or sensory phenotypic markers. RNA was extracted from SCs harvested from the motor and sensory branches of the rat femoral nerve and analyzed using Affymetrix Gene Chips (Rat Genome 230 v2.0 Array A). Genes that were upregulated in motor SCs compared with the sensory SCs or vice versa were identified, and the results were verified for a subset of genes using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). The expression levels of the “phenotype-specific” genes were then evaluated in SC expansion cultures at various time points over 30 days by qRT-PCR to determine the effect of expansion on SC phenotype. Expression levels of the phenotype-specific genes were significantly altered after expansion culture for both the motor and the sensory markers compared with fresh nerve tissue. These results indicate that both motor and sensory SC gene expression patterns are disrupted during expansion in vitro and may affect the ability of SCs to express phenotype-specific genes after transplantation. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.