Sox9 knockout mice have improved recovery following stroke
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The partial recovery that can occur after a stroke has been attributed to structural and functional plasticity that compensate for damage and lost functions. This plasticity is thought to be limited in part by the presence of growth inhibitors in the central nervous system. Blocking or reducing signals from inhibitors of axonal sprouting such as Nogo and chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs) increases post-stroke axonal sprouting and improves recovery. We previously identified the transcription factor SOX9 as a key up-regulator of CSPG production and demonstrated that conditional Sox9 ablation leads to increased axonal sprouting and improved recovery after spinal cord injury. In the present study we evaluate the effect of conditional Sox9 ablation in a transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) model of stroke. We demonstrate that conditional Sox9 ablation leads to reduced CSPG levels, increased tissue sparing and improved post-stroke neurological recovery. Anterograde tract tracing studies demonstrate that in the Sox9 conditional knockout mice corticorubral and corticospinal projections from the contralateral, uninjured cortex increase projections to targets in the midbrain and spinal cord denervated by the injury. These results suggest that targeting SOX9 is a viable strategy to promote reparative axonal sprouting, neuroprotection and recovery after stroke.