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Skin-brain axis signaling mediates behavioral changes after skin wounding


Patients with chronic wounds often have associated cognitive dysfunction and depression with an as yet unknown mechanism for this association. To address the possible causality of skin wounding inducing these changes, behavior and cognitive functions of female C57BL/6 mice with an excisional skin wound were compared to unwounded animals. At six days post wounding, animals exhibited anxiety-like behaviors, impaired recognition memory, and impaired coping behavior. Wounded animals also had concomitant increased hippocampal expression of Tnfa, the pattern recognition receptor (PRR) Nod2, the glucocorticoid receptors GR/Nr3c1 and Nr3c2. Prefrontal cortex serotonin and dopamine turnover were increased on day six post-wounding. In contrast to the central nervous system (CNS) findings, day six post -wounding serum catecholamines did not differ between wounded and unwounded animals, nor did levels of the stress hormone corticosterone, TNFα, or TGFβ. Serum IL6 levels were, however elevated in the wounded animals. These findings provide evidence of skin-to-brain signaling, mediated either by elevated serum IL6 or a direct neuronal signaling from the periphery to the CNS, independent of systemic mediators. Wounding in the periphery is associated with an altered expression of inflammatory mediators and PRR genes in the hippocampus, which may be responsible for the observed behavioral deficits.

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