The Journal of Neuroscience
After CNS injury, axonal regeneration is limited by myelin-associated inhibitors; however, this can be overcome through elevation of intracellular cyclic AMP (cAMP), as occurs with conditioning lesions of the sciatic nerve. This study reports that expression of secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI) is strongly upregulated in response to elevation of cAMP. We also show that SLPI can overcome inhibition by CNS myelin and significantly enhance regeneration of transected retinal ganglion cell axons in rats. Furthermore, regeneration of dorsal column axons does not occur after a conditioning lesion in SLPI null mutant mice, indicating that expression of SLPI is required for the conditioning lesion effect. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that SLPI localizes to the nuclei of neurons, binds to the Smad2 promoter, and reduces levels of Smad2 protein. Adenoviral overexpression of Smad2 also blocked SLPI-induced axonal regeneration. SLPI and Smad2 may therefore represent new targets for therapeutic intervention in CNS injury.