Specificity in regeneration after peripheral nerve injuries is a major determinant of functional recovery. Unfortunately, regenerating motor and sensory axons rarely find their original pathways to reinnervate appropriate target organs. Although a preference of motor axons to regenerate towards the muscle has been described, little is known about the specificity of the heterogeneous sensory populations. Here, we propose the comparative study of regeneration in different neuron subtypes. Using female and male reporter mice, we assessed the regenerative preference of motoneurons (ChAT-Cre/Ai9), proprioceptors (PV-Cre/Ai9), and cutaneous mechanoreceptors (Npy2r-Cre/Ai9). The femoral nerve of these animals was transected above the bifurcation and repaired with fibrin glue. Regeneration was assessed by applying retrograde tracers in the distal branches of the nerve 1 or 8 weeks after the lesion and counting the retrotraced somas and the axons in the branches. We found that cutaneous mechanoreceptors regenerated faster than other populations, followed by motoneurons and, lastly, proprioceptors. All neuron types had an early preference to regenerate into the cutaneous branch whereas, at long term, all neurons regenerated more through their original branch. Finally, we found that myelinated neurons extend more regenerative sprouts in the cutaneous than in the muscle branch of the femoral nerve and, particularly, that motoneurons have more collaterals than proprioceptors. Our findings reveal novel differences in regeneration dynamics and specificity, which indicate distinct regenerative mechanisms between neuron subtypes that can be potentially modulated to improve functional recovery after nerve injury.
|Publication status||E-pub ahead of print - 12 Sep 2022|