Despite concerted efforts to identify CNS regeneration strategies, an incomplete understanding of how the needed molecular machinery is regulated limits progress. Here we use models of lateral compression and FEJOTA clip contusion-compression spinal cord injury (SCI) to identify the thrombin receptor (Protease Activated Receptor 1 (PAR1)) as an integral facet of this machine with roles in regulating neurite growth through a growth factor- and cholesterol-dependent mechanism. Functional recovery and signs of neural repair, including expression of cholesterol biosynthesis machinery and markers of axonal and synaptic integrity, were all increased after SCI in PAR1 knockout female mice, while PTEN was decreased. Notably, PAR1 differentially regulated HMGCS1, a gene encoding a rate-limiting enzyme in cholesterol production, across the neuronal and astroglial compartments of the intact versus injured spinal cord. Pharmacologic inhibition of cortical neuron PAR1 using vorapaxar in vitro also decreased PTEN and promoted neurite outgrowth in a cholesterol dependent manner, including that driven by suboptimal brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Pharmacologic inhibition of PAR1 also augmented BDNF-driven HMGCS1 and cholesterol production by murine cortical neurons and by human SH-SY5Y and iPSC-derived neurons. The link between PAR1, cholesterol and BDNF was further highlighted by demonstrating that the deleterious effects of PAR1 over-activation are overcome by supplementing cultures with BDNF, cholesterol or by blocking an inhibitor of adenylate cyclase, Gαi. These findings document PAR1-linked neurotrophic coupling mechanisms that regulate neuronal cholesterol metabolism as an important component of the machinery regulating CNS repair and point to new strategies to enhance neural resiliency after injury.
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