We recently discovered a novel role for neuregulin-1 (Nrg1) signaling in mediating spontaneous regenerative processes and functional repair after spinal cord injury (SCI). We revealed that Nrg1 is the molecular signal responsible for spontaneous functional remyelination of dorsal column axons by peripheral nervous system (PNS)-like Schwann cells after SCI. Here, we investigate whether Nrg1/ErbB signaling controls the unusual transformation of centrally derived progenitor cells into these functional myelinating Schwann cells after SCI using a fate-mapping/lineage tracing approach. Specific ablation of Nrg1-ErbB receptors in central platelet-derived growth factor receptor alpha (PDGFRα)-derived lineage cells (using PDGFRαCreERT2/Tomato-red reporter mice crossed with ErbB3fl/fl/ErbB4fl/fl mice) led to a dramatic reduction in P0-positive remyelination in the dorsal columns following spinal contusion injury. Central myelination, assessed by Olig2 and proteolipid protein expression, was unchanged. Loss of ErbB signaling in PDGFRα lineage cells also significantly impacted the degree of spontaneous locomotor recovery after SCI, particularly in tests dependent on proprioception. These data have important implications, namely (a) cells from the PDGFRα-expressing progenitor lineage (which are presumably oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, OPCs) can differentiate into remyelinating PNS-like Schwann cells after traumatic SCI, (b) this process is controlled by ErbB tyrosine kinase signaling, and (c) this endogenous repair mechanism has significant consequences for functional recovery after SCI. Thus, ErbB tyrosine kinase receptor signaling directly controls the transformation of OPCs from the PDGFRα-expressing lineage into PNS-like functional remyelinating Schwann cells after SCI.
- ErbB tyrosine kinase receptor
- oligodendrocyte progenitor cells
- Schwann cells
- spinal cord injury