BackgroundCurrent methods to repair ablation-type peripheral nerve injuries (PNIs) using peripheral nerve allografts (PNAs) often result in poor functional recovery due to immunological rejection as well as to slow and inaccurate outgrowth of regenerating axonal sprouts. In contrast, ablation-type PNIs repaired by PNAs, using a multistep protocol in which one step employs the membrane fusogen polyethylene glycol (PEG), permanently restore sciatic-mediated behaviors within weeks. Axons and cells within PEG-fused PNAs remain viable, even though outbred host and donor tissues are neither immunosuppressed nor tissue matched. PEG-fused PNAs exhibit significantly reduced T cell and macrophage infiltration, expression of major histocompatibility complex I/II and consistently low apoptosis. In this study, we analyzed the coding transcriptome of PEG-fused PNAs to examine possible mechanisms underlying immunosuppression.MethodsAblation-type sciatic PNIs in adult Sprague-Dawley rats were repaired using PNAs and a PEG-fusion protocol combined with neurorrhaphy. Electrophysiological and behavioral tests confirmed successful PEG-fusion of PNAs. RNA sequencing analyzed differential expression profiles of protein-coding genes between PEG-fused PNAs and negative control PNAs (not treated with PEG) at 14 days PO, along with unoperated control nerves. Sequencing results were validated by quantitative reverse transcription PCR (RT-qPCR), and in some cases, immunohistochemistry.ResultsPEG-fused PNAs display significant downregulation of many gene transcripts associated with innate and adaptive allorejection responses. Schwann cell-associated transcripts are often upregulated, and cellular processes such as extracellular matrix remodeling and cell/tissue development are particularly enriched. Transcripts encoding several potentially immunosuppressive proteins (e.g., thrombospondins 1 and 2) also are upregulated in PEG-fused PNAs.ConclusionsThis study is the first to characterize the coding transcriptome of PEG-fused PNAs and to identify possible links between alterations of the extracellular matrix and suppression of the allorejection response. The results establish an initial molecular basis to understand mechanisms underlying PEG-mediated immunosuppression.