During pre-synaptic embryonic development, neuronal processes traverse short distances to reach their targets via growth cone. Over time, neuronal somata are separated from their axon terminals due to skeletal growth of the enlarging organism (Weiss 1941; Gray, Hukkanen et al. 1992). This mechanotransduction induces a secondary mode of neuronal growth capable of accommodating continual elongation of the axon (Bray 1984; Heidemann and Buxbaum 1994; Heidemann, Lamoureux et al. 1995; Pfister, Iwata et al. 2004). Axon Stretch Growth (ASG) is conceivably a central factor in the maturation of short embryonic processes into the long nerves and white matter tracts characteristic of the adult nervous system. To study ASG in vitro, we engineered bioreactors to apply tension to the short axonal processes of neuronal cultures (Loverde, Ozoka et al. 2011). Here, we detail the methods we use to prepare bioreactors and conduct ASG. First, within each stretching lane of the bioreactor, neurons are plated upon a micro-manipulated towing substrate. Next, neurons regenerate their axonal processes, via growth cone extension, onto a stationary substrate. Finally, stretch growth is performed by towing the plated cell bodies away from the axon terminals adhered to the stationary substrate; recapitulating skeletal growth after growth cone extension. Previous work has shown that ASG of embryonic rat dorsal root ganglia neurons are capable of unprecedented growth rates up to 10mm/day, reaching lengths of up to 10cm; while concurrently resulting in increased axonal diameters (Smith, Wolf et al. 2001; Pfister, Iwata et al. 2004; Pfister, Bonislawski et al. 2006; Pfister, Iwata et al. 2006; Smith 2009). This is in dramatic contrast to regenerative growth cone extension (in absence of mechanical stimuli) where growth rates average 1mm/day with successful regeneration limited to lengths of less than 3cm (Fu and Gordon 1997; Pfister, Gordon et al. 2011). Accordingly, further study of ASG may help to reveal dysregulated growth mechanisms that limit regeneration in the absence of mechanical stimuli.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Chemical Engineering(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)