Identification of key genes involved in axon regeneration and Wallerian degeneration by weighted gene co-expression network analysis.
Lu Y, Shan Q, Ling M, Ni XA, Mao SS, Yu B, Cao QQ.
Neural regeneration research. 2022; 17(4): 911-919

Abstract

Peripheral nerve injury repair requires a certain degree of cooperation between axon regeneration and Wallerian degeneration. Therefore, investigating how axon regeneration and degeneration work together to repair peripheral nerve injury may uncover the molecular mechanisms and signal cascades underlying peripheral nerve repair and provide potential strategies for improving the low axon regeneration capacity of the central nervous system. In this study, we applied weighted gene co-expression network analysis to identify differentially expressed genes in proximal and distal sciatic nerve segments from rats with sciatic nerve injury. We identified 31 and 15 co-expression modules from the proximal and distal sciatic nerve segments, respectively. Functional enrichment analysis revealed that the differentially expressed genes in proximal modules promoted regeneration, while the differentially expressed genes in distal modules promoted neurodegeneration. Next, we constructed hub gene networks for selected modules and identified a key hub gene, Kif22, which was up-regulated in both nerve segments. In vitro experiments confirmed that Kif22 knockdown inhibited proliferation and migration of Schwann cells by modulating the activity of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase signaling pathway. Collectively, our findings provide a comparative framework of gene modules that are co-expressed in injured proximal and distal sciatic nerve segments, and identify Kif22 as a potential therapeutic target for promoting peripheral nerve injury repair via Schwann cell proliferation and migration. All animal experiments were approved by the Institutional Animal Ethics Committee of Nantong University, China (approval No. S20210322-008) on March 22, 2021.



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