Plasticity Induced Recovery of Breathing Occurs at Chronic Stages after Cervical Contusion.
Warren PM2, Alilain WJ
Severe midcervical contusion injury causes profound deficits throughout the respiratory motor system that last from acute to chronic time points post-injury. We use chondroitinase ABC (ChABC) to digest chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans within the extracellular matrix (ECM) surrounding the respiratory system at both acute and chronic time points post-injury to explore whether augmentation of plasticity can recover normal motor function. We demonstrate that, regardless of time post-injury or treatment application, the lesion cavity remains consistent, showing little regeneration or neuroprotection within our model. Through electromyography (EMG) recordings of multiple inspiratory muscles, however, we show that application of the enzyme at chronic time points post-injury initiates the recovery of normal breathing in previously paralyzed respiratory muscles. This reduced the need for compensatory activity throughout the motor system. Application of ChABC at acute time points recovered only modest amounts of respiratory function. To further understand this effect, we assessed the anatomical mechanism of this recovery. Increased EMG activity in previously paralyzed muscles was brought about by activation of spared bulbospinal pathways through the site of injury and/or sprouting of spared serotonergic fibers from the contralateral side of the cord. Accordingly, we demonstrate that alterations to the ECM and augmentation of plasticity at chronic time points post-cervical contusion can cause functional recovery of the respiratory motor system and reveal mechanistic evidence of the pathways that govern this effect.