Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) triggers an acute-phase response that leads to systemic inflammation and rapid mobilization of bone marrow (BM) neutrophils into the blood. These mobilized neutrophils then accumulate in visceral organs and the injured spinal cord where they cause inflammatory tissue damage. The receptor for complement activation product 3a, C3aR1, has been implicated in negatively regulating the BM neutrophil response to tissue injury. However, the mechanism via which C3aR1 controls BM neutrophil mobilization, and also its influence over SCI outcomes, are unknown. Here, we show that the C3a/C3aR1 axis exerts neuroprotection in SCI by acting as a physiological antagonist against neutrophil chemotactic signals. We show that C3aR1 engages phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN), a negative regulator of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT pathway, to restrain C-X-C chemokine receptor type 2–driven BM neutrophil mobilization following trauma. These findings are of direct clinical significance as lower circulating neutrophil numbers at presentation were identified as a marker for improved recovery in human SCI. Our work thus identifies C3aR1 and its downstream intermediary, PTEN, as therapeutic targets to broadly inhibit neutrophil mobilization/recruitment following tissue injury and reduce inflammatory pathology.


Faith H. Brennan, Trisha Jogia, Ellen R. Gillespie, Linda V. Blomster, Xaria X. Li, Bianca Nowlan, Gail M. Williams, Esther Jacobson, Geoff W. Osborne, Frederic A. Meunier, Stephen M. Taylor, Kate E. Campbell, Kelli P.A. MacDonald, Jean-Pierre Levesque, Trent M. Woodruff, Marc J. Ruitenberg


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