The primary olfactory pathway in adult mammals has retained a remarkable potential for self-repair. Olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), specialized glial cells within the olfactory nerve, are thought to play an important role in the ongoing growth and replenishment of sensory connections in this system. To gain insight into novel molecules that could mediate OEC-supported growth of axons within the olfactory nerve, gene expression profiling experiments revealed very high expression of the fibulin-3 glycoprotein in OECs. To date, research on fibulin-3 has been limited and mainly focused on its involvement in Doyne honeycomb retinal dystrophy, vasculogenesis and tumor formation. As the extracellular matrix associated with OECs is thought to be an important contributor to a growth-permissive environment, the main aim of this thesis was to define a putative role for fibulin-3 during olfactory receptor neuron replacement and regeneration. This hypothesis was investigated in a series of in vitro and in vivo experiments that involved lentiviral vectors to manipulate fibulin-3 gene expression in OECs as well as the use of knock-out mice. Using genetically-modified OECs, experimental data showed that increased levels of fibulin-3 induced morphological changes in OECs and also impeded their migration. Lentiviral vector-mediated expression of fibulin-3 in OECs also had an inhibitory effect on neurite outgrowth from dorsal root ganglion explants. On the other hand, knock-down of fibulin-3 levels via siRNA technology resulted in reduced proliferation. Comparative lesioning experiments in fibulin-3 knock-out and wild-type mice allowed for further assessment of a role for fibulin-3 in olfactory nerve repair in vivo. Two experimental injury models, i.e. epithelial (Triton-X) lesioning and olfactory bulbectomy, were employed. The results obtained were in line with in vitro observations. A lack of fibulin-3 in knock-out mice resulted in a seemingly augmented regeneration of the olfactory epithelium at 10 days post-injury. However, at the latest recovery time point of 42 days post-injury, an impaired recovery of the olfactory epithelium from the experimental insults was observed. Although the precise mechanism for the latter phenomenon is not yet fully understood, our data point towards several factors which include vascular abnormalities and altered cell proliferation within the olfactory epithelium. Additionally, the precise protein distribution of another wide-spread family of extracellular matrix molecules, the laminins, was investigated in this thesis. It was of interest to investigate the spatiotemporal expression of laminin isoforms during iii olfactory nerve development and regeneration as these molecules may have distinct roles in promoting olfactory sensory neuron growth and patterning. In situ hybridization and immunohistochemical studies concluded that laminin-211 and laminin-411 were the most likely candidates to play such a role. In summary, this thesis provides new insights into the role of the extracellular matrix, fibulin-3 in particular, in regulating cell migration, division and axonal growth in the primary olfactory pathway. Such knowledge also gives a greater understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which OEC transplants may enhance axonal regeneration elsewhere in the CNS.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Publication status||Unpublished - 2008|