Axonal degeneration is mediated by necroptosis activation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Axonal degeneration, which contributes to functional impairment in several disorders of the nervous system, is an important target for neuroprotection. Several individual factors and subcellular events have been implicated in axonal degeneration, but researchers have so far been unable to identify an integrative signaling pathway activating this self-destructive process. Through pharmacological and genetic approaches, we tested whether necroptosis, a regulated cell-death mechanism implicated in the pathogenesis of several neurodegenerative diseases, is involved in axonal degeneration. Pharmacological inhibition of the necroptotic kinase RIPK1 using necrostatin-1 strongly delayed axonal degeneration in the peripheral nervous system and CNS of wild-type mice of either sex and protected in vitro sensory axons from degeneration after mechanical and toxic insults. These effects were also observed after genetic knock-down of RIPK3, a second key regulator of necroptosis, and the downstream effector MLKL (Mixed Lineage Kinase Domain-Like). RIPK1 inhibition prevented mitochondrial fragmentation in vitro and in vivo, a typical feature of necrotic death, and inhibition of mitochondrial fission by Mdivi also resulted in reduced axonal loss in damaged nerves. Furthermore, electrophysiological analysis demonstrated that inhibition of necroptosis delays not only the morphological degeneration of axons, but also the loss of their electrophysiological function after nerve injury. Activation of the necroptotic pathway early during injury-induced axonal degeneration was made evident by increased phosphorylation of the downstream effector MLKL. Our results demonstrate that axonal degeneration proceeds by necroptosis, thus defining a novel mechanistic framework in the axonal degenerative cascade for therapeutic interventions in a wide variety of conditions that lead to neuronal loss and functional impairment.


  • Macarena S. Arrázola
  • Cristian Saquel
  • Romina J. Catalán
  • Sebastián A. Barrientos
  • Diego E. Hernandez
  • Nicolás W. Martínez
  • Alejandra Catenaccio
  • Felipe A. Court
External organisations
  • Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  • Pontifical Catholic University of Chile
  • Universidad Mayor de Chile
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Neurosciences


  • Axonal degeneration, Mitochondrial fragmentation, MLKL, Necroptosis, Neurodegeneration, RIP kinase
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3832-3844
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch