Functional genomics reveals molecular programs associated with recovery from spinal cord injury in lampreys
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The lamprey is a basal vertebrate that achieves spontaneous functional recovery after complete spinal cord transection over a stereotypical period of 12 weeks. Despite anatomical, physiological, and behavioral data on spinal cord regeneration in lamprey, the molecular mechanisms underlying this capacity are largely unknown. In this study, next generation RNA-sequencing (RNA-Seq) of the brain and injury site within the spinal cord was used to determine and compare transcriptional profiles of uninjured and recovered lampreys at 12 weeks after spinal cord injury (SCI), when normal swimming behavior is achieved. The objective of this study was to determine if recovered animals had a significantly different transcriptional program than uninjured animals. Significant differences in gene expression were observed, with 1468 and 1033 differentially expressed genes in the spinal cord and brain respectively. Leveraging functional data for mammalian homologs of differentially expressed genes, several conserved transcription factors and molecular pathways in both uninjured and injured animals were identified. Gene expression patterns associated with functional recovery in lampreys may be useful in guiding studies aimed at modulating mammalian responses to spinal cord injury, and promoting functional recovery in species with less spontaneous regenerative potential.