Get access

Extensive structural remodeling of the injured spinal cord revealed by phosphorylated MAP1B in sprouting axons and degenerating neurons


Dr F. Nothias, as above.


Spinal cord injury (SCI) results in loss of sensory and motor function because injured axons do not regenerate and neurons that die are not replaced. Nevertheless, there is evidence for spontaneous reorganization of spared pathways (i.e. sprouting) that could be exploited to improve functional recovery. The extent of morphological remodeling after spinal cord injury is, however, not understood. We have previously shown that a phosphorylated form of microtubule-associated protein-1B, MAP1B-P, is expressed by growing axons, but is detected in intact adult SC in fibers exhibiting a somatotopic distribution of myelinated sensory fibers. We now demonstrate that after adult SCI, MAP1B-P is up-regulated in other classes of axons. We used immunohistochemistry to show changing levels and distributions of MAP1B-P after a right thoracic hemisection of adult rat spinal cord. MAP1B-P labeling suggests rearrangements of the axonal circuitry that go well beyond previous descriptions. MAP1B-P-positive fibers are present in ectopic locations in gray matter in both dorsal and ventral horns and around the central canal. Double staining reveals that primary sensory and descending serotonergic and corticospinal axons are MAP1B-P positive. In white matter, high MAP1B-P expression is found on terminal enlargements near the injury, reflecting retraction of transected axons. MAP1B-P also accumulates in pre-apoptotic neuronal somata axotomized by the lesion, indicating association of MAP1B-P not only with axon extension and retraction, but also with neuronal degeneration. Finally, we provide evidence that MAP1B phosphorylation is correlated with activation of JNK MAP-kinase, providing a step towards unraveling the mechanisms of regulation of this plasticity-related cytoskeletal protein.