Modulation of CSPG sulfation patterns through siRNA silencing of sulfotransferase expression to promote CNS regeneration
Millner, Mary Angela
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Injury to the central nervous system (CNS) results in the formation of a highly inhibitory glial scar consisting mainly of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs). CSPGs are comprised of a protein core with covalently attached chondroitin sulfate glycosaminoglycan (CS-GAG) side chains. CSPGs and CS-GAGs have been implicated in the regenerative failure of the CNS, though the mechanism underlying inhibition is unclear. Sulfation affects both the physical and chemical characteristics of CS-GAGs and, therefore, it has been hypothesized that certain sulfation patterns are more inhibitory than others. To investigate this hypothesis, specific chondroitin sulfate sulfotransferases (CSSTs), the enzymes responsible for CS-GAG sulfation, were knocked down in vitro using siRNA. C4ST-1, C4ST-2, and C46ST were chosen as targets for gene knockdown in this study based on their expression in neural tissue and the extent of inhibition caused by their respective CS-GAG. It was hypothesized that transfection of primary rat astrocytes with siRNAs designed to prevent the expression of C4ST-1, C4ST-2, and C46ST would decrease specific sulfation patterns of CSPGs, resulting in improved neurite extension in a neurite guidance assay. Through optimization of siRNA dose, astrocyte viability was maintained while successfully knocking down mRNA levels of C4ST-1, C4ST-2, and C46ST and significantly reducing total levels of secreted CS-GAGs. However, no increase in the incidence of neurite extension was observed using conditioned media collected from siRNA transfected astrocytes compared to non-transfected controls. These data suggest that sulfation does not contribute to CSPG-mediated neurite inhibition, though further investigation is necessary to confirm these findings. Significantly, this work has established a paradigm for investigating the role of CSPG sulfation patterns in CNS regeneration.