Spatial and temporal arrangement of neuronal intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms controlling axon regeneration.
A broadly known method to stimulate the growth potential of axons is to elevate intracellular levels of cAMP, however the cellular pathway(s) that mediate this are not known. Here we identify the Dual Leucine-zipper Kinase (DLK, Wnd in Drosophila) as a critical target and effector of cAMP in injured axons. DLK/Wnd is thought to function as an injury 'sensor', as it becomes activated after axonal damage. Our findings in both Drosophila and mammalian neurons indicate that the cAMP effector kinase PKA is a conserved and direct upstream activator of Wnd/DLK. PKA is required for the induction of Wnd signaling in injured axons, and DLK is essential for the regenerative effects of cAMP in mammalian DRG neurons. These findings link two important mediators of responses to axonal injury, DLK/Wnd and cAMP/PKA, into a unified and evolutionarily conserved molecular pathway for stimulating the regenerative potential of injured axons.