Caspase-2 is upregulated after sciatic nerve transection and its inhibition protects dorsal root ganglion neurons from apoptosis after serum withdrawal

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Sciatic nerve (SN) transection-induced apoptosis of dorsal root ganglion neurons (DRGN) is one factor determining the efficacy of peripheral axonal regeneration and the return of sensation. Here, we tested the hypothesis that caspase-2 (CASP2) orchestrates apoptosis of axotomised DRGN both in vivo and in vitro by disrupting the local neurotrophic supply to DRGN. We observed significantly elevated levels of cleaved CASP2 (C-CASP2), compared to cleaved caspase-3 (C-CASP3), within TUNEL+DRGN and DRG glia (satellite and Schwann cells) after SN transection. A serum withdrawal cell culture model, which induced 40% apoptotic death in DRGN and 60% in glia, was used to model DRGN loss after neurotrophic factor withdrawal. Elevated C-CASP2 and TUNEL were observed in both DRGN and DRG glia, with C-CASP2 localisation shifting from the cytosol to the nucleus, a required step for induction of direct CASP2-mediated apoptosis. Furthermore, siRNA-mediated downregulation of CASP2 protected 50% of DRGN from apoptosis after serum withdrawal, while downregulation of CASP3 had no effect on DRGN or DRG glia survival. We conclude that CASP2 orchestrates the death of SN-axotomised DRGN directly and also indirectly through loss of DRG glia and their local neurotrophic factor support. Accordingly, inhibiting CASP2 expression is a potential therapy for improving both the SN regeneration response and peripheral sensory recovery.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere57861
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2013


  • Apoptosis, Axons, Fluorescence microscopy, Immunohistochemistry techniques, Neuronal tuning, Neurons, Schwann cells, Small interfering RNAs