Identification of the extracellular matrix protein Fibulin-2 as a regulator of spinal nerve organization

Publication date: Available online 23 June 2018
Source:Developmental Biology
Author(s): Julia Schaeffer, David Tannahill, Jean-Michel Cioni, Dáire Rowlands, Roger Keynes
During amniote peripheral nervous system development, segmentation ensures the correct patterning of the spinal nerves relative to the vertebral column. Along the antero-posterior (rostro-caudal) axis, each somite-derived posterior half-sclerotome expresses repellent molecules to restrict axon growth and neural crest migration to the permissive anterior half-segment. To identify novel regulators of spinal nerve patterning, we investigated the differential gene expression of anterior and posterior half-sclerotomes in the chick embryo by RNA-sequencing. Several genes encoding extracellular matrix proteins were found to be enriched in either anterior (e.g. Tenascin-C, Laminin alpha 4) or posterior (e.g. Fibulin-2, Fibromodulin, Collagen VI alpha 2) half-sclerotomes. Among them, the extracellular matrix protein Fibulin-2 was found specifically restricted to the posterior half-sclerotome. By using in ovo ectopic expression in chick somites, we found that Fibulin-2 modulates spinal axon growth trajectories in vivo. While no intrinsic axon repellent activity of Fibulin-2 was found, we showed that it enhances the growth cone repulsive activity of Semaphorin 3A in vitro. Some molecules regulating axon growth during development are found to be upregulated in the adult central nervous system (CNS) following traumatic injury. Here, we found increased Fibulin-2 protein levels in reactive astrocytes at the lesion site of a mouse model of CNS injury. Together, these results suggest that the developing vertebral column and the adult CNS share molecular features that control axon growth and plasticity, which may open up the possibility for the identification of novel therapeutic targets for brain and spinal cord injury.