Transforming growth factor α transforms astrocytes to a growth-supportive phenotype after spinal cord injury

Robin E. White, Meghan Rao, John C. Gensel, Dana M. McTigue, Brian K. Kaspar, Lyn B. Jakeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Astrocytes are both detrimental and beneficial for repair and recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI). These dynamic cells are primary contributors to the growth-inhibitory glial scar, yet they are also neuroprotective and can form growth-supportive bridges on which axons traverse. We have shown that intrathecal administration of transforming growth factor α (TGFα) to the contused mouse spinal cord can enhance astrocyte infiltration and axonal growth within the injury site, but the mechanisms of these effects are not well understood. The present studies demonstrate that the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is upregulated primarily by astrocytes and glial progenitors early after SCI. TGFα directly activates the EGFR on these cells in vitro, inducing their proliferation, migration, and transformation to a phenotype that supports robust neurite outgrowth. Overexpression of TGFα in vivo by intraparenchymal adeno-associated virus injection adjacent to the injury site enhances cell proliferation, alters astrocyte distribution, and facilitates increased axonal penetration at the rostral lesion border. To determine whether endogenous EGFR activation is required after injury, SCI was also performed on Velvet (C57BL/6J-Egfr Vel/J) mice, a mutant strain with defective EGFR activity. The affected mice exhibited malformed glial borders, larger lesions, and impaired recovery of function, indicating that intrinsic EGFR activation is necessary for neuroprotection and normal glial scar formation after SCI. By further stimulating precursor proliferation and modifying glial activation to promote a growth-permissive environment, controlled stimulation of EGFR at the lesion border may be considered in the context of future strategies to enhance endogenous cellular repair after injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15173-15187
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 19 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Transforming growth factor α transforms astrocytes to a growth-supportive phenotype after spinal cord injury'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this