PublicatiesManipulation of gene expression in the mammalian nervous system
A fundamental issue in neurobiology entails the study of the formation of neuronal connections and their potential to regenerate following injury. In recent years, an expanding number of gene families has been identified involved in different aspects of neurite outgrowth and regeneration. These include neurotrophic factors, cell-adhesion molecules, growth-associated proteins, cytoskeletal proteins and chemorepulsive proteins. Genetic manipulation technology (transgenic mice, knockout mice, viral vectors and antisense oligonucleotides) has been instrumental in defining the function of these neurite outgrowth-related proteins. The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of the above-mentioned four approaches to manipulate gene expression in vivo and to discuss the progress that has been made using this technology in helping to understand the molecular mechanisms that regulate neurite outgrowth. We will show that work with transgenic mice and knockout mice has contributed significantly to the dissection of the function of several proteins with a key role in neurite outgrowth and neuronal survival. Recently developed viral vectors for gene transfer in postmitotic neurons have opened up new avenues to analyze the function of a protein following local expression in naive adult rodents. The initial results with viral vector-based gene transfer provide a conceptual framework for further studies on genetic therapy of neuroregeneration and neurodegenerative diseases.