Aberrant perineuronal nets alter spinal circuits, impair motor function, and increase plasticity

J Sánchez-Ventura, C Canal, J Hidalgo, C Penas, X Navarro, A Torres-Espin, K Fouad, E Udina

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Perineuronal nets (PNNs) are a specialized extracellular matrix that have been extensively studied in the brain. Cortical PNNs are implicated in synaptic stabilization, plasticity inhibition, neuroprotection, and ionic buffering. However, the role of spinal PNNs, mainly found around motoneurons, is still unclear. Thus, the goal of this study is to elucidate the role of spinal PNNs on motor function and plasticity in both intact and spinal cord injured mice. We used transgenic mice lacking the cartilage link protein 1 (Crtl1 KO mice), which is implicated in PNN assembly. Crtl1 KO mice showed disorganized PNNs with an altered proportion of their components in both motor cortex and spinal cord. Behavioral and electrophysiological tests revealed motor impairments and hyperexcitability of spinal reflexes in Crtl1 KO compared to WT mice. These functional outcomes were accompanied by an increase in excitatory synapses around spinal motoneurons. Moreover, following spinal lesions of the corticospinal tract, Crtl1 KO mice showed increased contralateral sprouting compared to WT mice. Altogether, the lack of Crtl1 generates aberrant PNNs that alter excitatory synapses and change the physiological properties of motoneurons, overall altering spinal circuits and producing motor impairment. This disorganization generates a permissive scenario for contralateral axons to sprout after injury.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114220
Number of pages16
JournalExperimental Neurology
Early online date3 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Link protein 1
  • Locomotion
  • Perineuronal nets
  • Plasticity
  • Spinal cord injury


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