SOX2 expression is upregulated in adult spinal cord after contusion injury in both oligodendrocyte lineage and ependymal cells



The upregulation of genes normally associated with development may occur in the adult after spinal cord injury (SCI). To test this, we performed real-time RT-PCR array analysis of mouse spinal cord mRNAs comparing embryonic day (E)14.5 spinal cord with intact adult and adult cord 1 week after a clinically relevant standardized contusion SCI. We found significantly increased expression of a large number of neural development- and stem cell-associated genes after SCI. These included Sox2 (sex determining region Y-box 2), a transcription factor that regulates self-renewal and potency of embryonic neural stem cells and is one of only a few key factors needed to induce pluripotency. In adult spinal cord of Sox2-EGFP mice, Sox2-EGFP was found mainly in the ependymal cells of the central canal. After SCI, both mRNA and protein levels of Sox2 were significantly increased at and near the injury site. By 1 day, Sox2 was upregulated in NG2+ oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPC) in the spared white matter. By 3 days, Sox2-EGFP ependymal cells had increased proliferation and begun to form multiple layers and clusters of cells in the central lesion zone of the cord. Expression of Sox2 by NG2+ cells had declined by 1 week, but increased numbers of other Sox2-expressing cells persisted for at least 4 weeks after SCI in both mouse and rat models. Thus, SCI upregulates many genes associated with development and neural stem cells, including the key transcription factor Sox2, which is expressed in a pool of cells that persists for weeks after SCI. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.