Severed axons of the inferior colliculus (IC) commissure can regenerate across a lesion in organotypic cultures from postnatal day (P) 6 gerbils, but this regenerative capacity is lost by P12 (Hafidi et al.  J Neurosci 15:1298-1307,  J Neurobiol 41:267-280). In the present study, we examined the mechanisms underlying this age-dependent failure of axons to regenerate. In P6-P12 heterochronic cultures, the P12 axons failed to cross the lesion site and project to the contralateral P6 IC lobe. In contrast, axons originating from the P6 lobe could regenerate through the lesion and invade the contralateral P12 IC lobe. To determine whether this age-dependent change in regenerative capacity can develop in organotypic cultures, IC slices with an intact commissure were obtained from P6 animals, grown in vitro for 6 days, and then lesioned at the commissure. In these slices, axon regeneration failure was similar to that observed in normal P12 tissue. Several in vitro treatments enhanced axon regeneration: removal of the entire midline region, inhibition of protein synthesis at the lesion site, and exposure to ABC chondroitinase. Furthermore, when the injured commissural axons were provided with a carpet of C6-R cells (a radial glia-like cell line), significantly more axons projected to the contralateral lobe of the IC. Taken together, these results suggest that the maturation of nonneuronal cells within the lesion site lead to failed axon regeneration in mature animals, and show that ameliorative strategies can be evaluated in vitro.
- C6-R cells
- Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan
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