While excessive tensile strain can be detrimental to nerve function, strain can be a positive regulator of neuronal outgrowth. We used an in vivo rat model of sciatic nerve strain to investigate signaling mechanisms underlying peripheral nerve response to deformation. Nerves were deformed by 11%, and did not demonstrate deficits in compound action potential latency or amplitude during or after 6 hours of strain. As revealed by Western blotting, application of strain resulted in significant upregulation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and S6 signaling in nerves, increased myelin basic protein (MBP) and β-actin levels, and increased phosphorylation of neurofilament subunit H (NF-H) compared to unstrained (sham) contralateral nerves (p < 0.05 for all comparisons, paired 2-tailed t-test). Strain did not alter neuron-specific β3-tubulin or overall nerve tubulin levels compared to unstrained controls. Systemic rapamycin treatment, thought to selectively target mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1), suppressed mTOR/S6 signaling, reduced levels of MBP and overall tubulin, and decreased NF-H phosphorylation in nerves strained for 6 hours, revealing a role for mTOR in increasing MBP expression and NF-H phosphorylation, and maintaining tubulin levels. Consistent with stretch-induced increases in MBP, immunolabeling revealed increased S6 signaling in Schwann cells of stretched nerves compared to unstretched nerves. In addition, application of strain to cultured adult DRG neurons showed an increase in axonal protein synthesis based on a puromycin incorporation assay, suggesting that neuronal translational pathways also respond to strain. This work has important implications for understanding mechanisms underlying nerve response to strain during development and regeneration.
- peripheral nerve
- Copyright © 2016, Journal of Neurophysiology