Jennifer C Wilhelm

College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, United States

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Publications (7)41.43 Total impact

  • Arthur W English, Jennifer C Wilhelm, Patricia J Ward
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    ABSTRACT: Electrical stimulation and exercise are treatments to enhance recovery from peripheral nerve injuries. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor and androgen receptor signaling are requirements for the effectiveness of these treatments. Increased neuronal activity is adequate to promote regeneration in injured nerves, but the dosing of activity and its relationship to neurotrophins and sex steroid hormones is less clear. Translation of these therapies will require principles associated with their cellular mechanisms.
    Physiology 11/2014; 29(6):437-445. · 5.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: After peripheral nerve injury, neurotrophins play a key role in the regeneration of damaged axons that can be augmented by exercise, although the distinct roles played by neurons and Schwann cells are unclear. In this study, we evaluated the requirement for the neurotrophin, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), in neurons and Schwann cells for the regeneration of peripheral axons after injury. Common fibular or tibial nerves in thy-1-YFP-H mice were cut bilaterally and repaired using a graft of the same nerve from transgenic mice lacking BDNF in Schwann cells (BDNF(-/-)) or wild-type mice (WT). Two weeks postrepair, axonal regeneration into BDNF(-/-) grafts was markedly less than WT grafts, emphasizing the importance of Schwann cell BDNF. Nerve regeneration was enhanced by treadmill training posttransection, regardless of the BDNF content of the nerve graft. We further tested the hypothesis that training-induced increases in BDNF in neurons allow regenerating axons to overcome a lack of BDNF expression in cells in the pathway through which they regenerate. Nerves in mice lacking BDNF in YFP(+) neurons (SLICK) were cut and repaired with BDNF(-/-) and WT nerves. SLICK axons lacking BDNF did not regenerate into grafts lacking Schwann cell BDNF. Treadmill training could not rescue the regeneration into BDNF(-/-) grafts if the neurons also lacked BDNF. Both Schwann cell- and neuron-derived BDNF are thus important for axon regeneration in cut peripheral nerves.
    Journal of Neuroscience 04/2012; 32(14):5002-9. · 6.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Exercise in the form of daily treadmill training results in significant enhancement of axon regeneration following peripheral nerve injury. Because androgens are also linked to enhanced axon regeneration, we wanted to investigate whether sex differences in the effect of treadmill training might exist. The common fibular nerves of thy-1-YFP-H mice were cut and repaired with a graft of the same nerve from a strain-matched wild-type donor mouse. Animals were treated with one of two daily treadmill training paradigms: slow continuous walking for 1 h or four higher intensity intervals of 2 min duration separated by 5-min rest periods. Training was begun on the third day following nerve injury and continued 5 days per week for 2 weeks. Effects on regeneration were evaluated by measuring regenerating axon profile lengths in optical sections through the repair sites and grafts at the end of the training period. No sex differences were found in untrained control mice. Continuous training resulted in significant enhancement of axon regeneration only in males. No effect was found in females or in castrated males. Interval training was effective in enhancing axon regeneration only in females and not in intact males or castrated males. Untrained females treated with the aromatase inhibitor, anastrozole, had significant enhancement of axon regeneration without increasing serum testosterone levels. Two different mechanisms exist to promote axon regeneration in a sex-dependent manner. In males treadmill training uses testicular androgens. In females, a different cellular mechanism for the effect of treadmill training must exist.
    Developmental Neurobiology 07/2011; 72(5):688-98. · 4.42 Impact Factor
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    Arthur W English, Jennifer C Wilhelm, Manning J Sabatier
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    ABSTRACT: Full functional recovery after traumatic peripheral nerve injury is rare. We postulate three reasons for the poor functional outcome measures observed. Axon regeneration is slow and not all axons participate. Significant misdirection of regenerating axons to reinnervate inappropriate targets occurs. Seemingly permanent changes in neural circuitry in the central nervous system are found to accompany axotomy of peripheral axons. Exercise in the form of modest daily treadmill training impacts all three of these areas. Compared to untrained controls, regenerating axons elongate considerably farther in treadmill trained animals and do so via an autocrine/paracrine neurotrophin signaling pathway. This enhancement of axon regeneration takes place without an increase in the amount of misdirection of regenerating axons found without training. The enhancement also occurs in a sex-dependent manner. Slow continuous training is effective only in males, while more intense interval training is effective only in females. In treadmill trained, but not untrained mice the extent of coverage of axotomized motoneurons is maintained, thus preserving important elements of the spinal circuitry.
    Annals of anatomy = Anatomischer Anzeiger: official organ of the Anatomische Gesellschaft 03/2011; 193(4):354-61. · 1.96 Impact Factor
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    Jennifer C Wilhelm, Mark M Rich, Peter Wenner
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    ABSTRACT: When neuronal activity is reduced over a period of days, compensatory changes in synaptic strength and/or cellular excitability are triggered, which are thought to act in a manner to homeostatically recover normal activity levels. The time course over which changes in homeostatic synaptic strength and cellular excitability occur are not clear. Although many studies show that 1-2 days of activity block are necessary to trigger increases in excitatory quantal strength, few studies have been able to examine whether these mechanisms actually underlie recovery of network activity. Here, we examine the mechanisms underlying recovery of embryonic motor activity following block of either excitatory GABAergic or glutamatergic inputs in vivo. We find that GABA(A) receptor blockade triggers fast changes in cellular excitability that occur during the recovery of activity but before changes in synaptic scaling. This increase in cellular excitability is mediated in part by an increase in sodium currents and a reduction in the fast-inactivating and calcium-activated potassium currents. These findings suggest that compensatory changes in cellular excitability, rather than synaptic scaling, contribute to activity recovery. Further, we find a special role for the GABA(A) receptor in triggering several homeostatic mechanisms after activity perturbations, including changes in cellular excitability and GABAergic and AMPAergic synaptic strength. The temporal difference in expression of homeostatic changes in cellular excitability and synaptic strength suggests that there are multiple mechanisms and pathways engaged to regulate network activity, and that each may have temporally distinct functions.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/2009; 106(16):6760-5. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    Jennifer C Wilhelm, Peter Wenner
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    ABSTRACT: When activity levels are altered over days, a network of cells is capable of recognizing this perturbation and triggering several distinct compensatory changes that should help to recover and maintain the original activity levels homeostatically. One feature commonly observed after activity blockade has been a compensatory increase in excitatory quantal amplitude. The sensing machinery that detects altered activity levels is a central focus of the field currently, but thus far it has been elusive. The vast majority of studies that reduce network activity also reduce neurotransmission. We address the possibility that reduced neurotransmission can trigger increases in quantal amplitude. In this work, we blocked glutamatergic or GABA(A) transmission in ovo for 2 days while maintaining relatively normal network activity. We found that reducing GABA(A) transmission triggered compensatory increases in both GABA and AMPA quantal amplitude in embryonic spinal motoneurons. Glutamatergic blockade had no effect on quantal amplitude. Therefore, GABA binding to the GABA(A) receptor appears to be a critical step in the sensing machinery for homeostatic synaptic plasticity. The findings suggest that homeostatic increases in quantal amplitude may normally be triggered by reduced levels of activity, which are sensed in the developing spinal cord by GABA, via the GABA(A) receptor. Therefore, GABA appears to be serving as a proxy for activity levels.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 09/2008; 105(32):11412-7. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Bovine adrenal chromaffin cells share many characteristics with neurons and are often used as a simple model system to study ion channels and neurotransmitter release. We infected bovine adrenal chromaffin cells with a replication deficient adenovirus that induces expression of the common reporters beta-galactosidase and Green Fluorescent Protein via a bicistronic sequence. In perforated-patch recordings performed 48-h postinfection, peak calcium currents were reduced 32%, primarily due to loss of omega-conotoxin-GVIA-sensitive current. In contrast, sodium currents were increased 17%. Exocytosis, detected as an increase in membrane capacitance immediately after a single step depolarization, was reduced in proportion to the decrease in calcium influx. However, capacitance continued to increase for seconds after the depolarization. The amplitude of this poststimulus drift, or asynchronous exocytosis, was approximately three times that which occurred in a small fraction of control cells. Exocytosis evoked by repetitive stimulation with a train of brief depolarizations was increased 50%. Intracellular calcium levels measured during and after stimulation were lower, not higher, in adenovirus-infected cells. Electroporated cells showed reduced calcium currents but no enhancement of exocytosis. Cells infected with UV-irradiated virus showed reduced calcium currents and enhancement of exocytosis, but the changes were smaller than those caused by intact virus. Our results are consistent with the idea that adenovirus capsid and adenoviral DNA contribute to a Ca2+ influx- and [Ca2+]i-independent enhancement of exocytosis in bovine chromaffin cells.
    Journal of Neurophysiology 12/2005; 94(5):3278-91. · 3.04 Impact Factor