Motoneuron death after transection of the axons (axotomy) in neonates is believed to share the same mechanistic bases as naturally occurring programmed cell death during development. The c-Jun N-terminal kinase pathway is activated in both forms of motoneuron death, but it remains unknown to what extent these two forms of motoneuron death depend on this pathway and which upstream kinases are involved. We found that numbers of facial motoneurons are doubled in neonatal mice deficient in either ZPK/DLK (zipper protein kinase, also known as dual leucine zipper kinase), a mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase, or in MKK4/MAP2K4, a mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase directly downstream of ZPK/DLK, and that the facial motoneurons in those mutant mice are completely resistant to axotomy-induced death. Conditional deletion of MKK4/MAP2K4 in neurons further suggested that ZPK/DLK and MKK4/MAP2K4-dependent mechanisms underlying axotomy-induced death are motoneuron autonomous. Nevertheless, quantitative analysis of facial motoneurons during embryogenesis revealed that both ZPK/DLK and MKK4/MAP2K4-dependent and -independent mechanisms contribute to developmental elimination of excess motoneurons. In contrast to MKK4/MAP2K4, mice lacking MKK7/MAP2K7, another mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase directly downstream of ZPK/DLK, conditionally in neurons did not have excess facial motoneurons. However, some MKK7/MAP2K7-deficient facial motoneurons were resistant to axotomy-induced death, indicating a synergistic effect of MKK7/MAP2K7 on axotomy-induced death of these facial motoneurons. Together, our study provides compelling evidence for the pivotal roles of the ZPK/DLK and MKK4/MAP2K4-dependent mechanism in axotomy-induced motoneuron death in neonates and also demonstrates that axotomy-induced motoneuron death is not identical to developmental motoneuron death with respect to the involvement of ZPK/DLK, MKK4/MAP2K4 and MKK7/MAP2K7.
- Injury response
- Mitogen-activated protein kinase
- Programmed cell death
ASJC Scopus subject areas