Axonal regrowth is impaired during digit tip regeneration in mice

Connor P. Dolan, Mingquan Yan, Katherine Zimmel, Tae Jung Yang, Eric Leininger, Lindsay A. Dawson, Ken Muneoka*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Mice are intrinsically capable of regenerating the tips of their digits after amputation. Mouse digit tip regeneration is reported to be a peripheral nerve-dependent event. However, it is presently unknown what types of nerves and Schwann cells innervate the digit tip, and to what extent these cells regenerate in association with the regenerative response. Given the necessity of peripheral nerves for mammalian regeneration, we investigated the neuroanatomy of the unamputated, regenerating, and regenerated mouse digit tip. Using immunohistochemistry for β-III-tubulin (β3T) or neurofilament H (NFH), substance P (SP), tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), myelin protein zero (P0), and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), we identified peripheral nerve axons (sensory and sympathetic), and myelinating- and non-myelinating-Schwann cells. Our findings show that the digit tip is innervated by two digital nerves that each bifurcate into a bone marrow (BM) and connective tissue (CT) branch. The BM branches are composed of sympathetic axons that are ensheathed by non-myelinating-Schwann cells whereas the CT branches are composed of sensory and sympathetic axons and are ensheathed by myelinating- and non-myelinating-Schwann cells. The regenerated digit neuroanatomy differs from unamputated digit in several key ways. First, there is 7.5 fold decrease in CT branch axons in the regenerated digit compared to the unampuated digit. Second, there is a 5.6 fold decrease in myelinating-Schwann cells in the regenerated digit compared to the unamputated digit that is consistent with the decrease in CT branch axons. Importantly, we also find that the central portion of the regenerating digit blastema is aneural, with axons and Schwann cells restricted to peripheral and distal blastema regions. Finally, we show that even with impaired innervation, digits maintain the ability to regenerate after re-amputation. Taken together, these data indicate that nerve regeneration is impaired in the context of mouse digit tip regeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-244
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Axon
  • Digit
  • Peripheral nervous system
  • Regeneration
  • Schwann cell


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