A role for HSP27 in sensory neuron survival

Susan E. Lewis, Richard J. Mannion, Fletcher A. White, Richard E. Coggeshall, Simon Beggs, Michael Costigan, Jody L. Martin, Wolfgang H. Dillmann, Clifford J. Woolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


Peripheral nerve injury in neonatal rats results in the death of the majority of the axotomized sensory neurons by 7 d after injury. In adult animals, however, all sensory neurons survive for at least 4 months after axotomy. How sensory neurons acquire the capacity to survive axonal injury is not known. Here we describe how the expression of the small heat shock protein 27 (HSP27) is correlated with neuronal survival after axotomy in vivo and after NGF withdrawal in vitro. The number of HSP27-immunoreactive neurons in the L4 DRG is low at birth and does not change significantly for 21 d after postnatal day 0 (P0) sciatic nerve axotomy. In contrast, in the adult all axotomized neurons begin to express HSP27. One week after P0 sciatic nerve section the total number of neurons in the L4 DRG is dramatically reduced, but all surviving axotomized neurons, as identified by c-jun immunoreactivity, are immunoreactive for HSP27. In addition, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling reveals that very few HSP27-expressing neurons are dying 48 hr after neonatal axotomy. In vitro, a similar correlation exists between HSP27 expression and survival; in P0 DRG cultures, neurons that express HSP27 preferentially survive NGF withdrawal. Finally, overexpression of human HSP27 in neonatal rat sensory and sympathetic neurons significantly increases survival after NGF withdrawal, with nearly twice as many neurons surviving at 48 hr. Together these results suggest that HSP27 in sensory neurons plays a role in promoting survival after axotomy or neurotrophin withdrawal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8945-8953
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 15 1999


  • Apoptosis
  • Axotomy
  • Dorsal root ganglion
  • Heat shock protein
  • Neonatal
  • Nerve growth factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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