Axon regeneration helps maintain lifelong function of neurons in many animals. Depending on the site of injury, new axons can grow either from the axon stump (after distal injury) or from the tip of a dendrite (after proximal injury). However, some neuron types do not have dendrites to be converted to a regenerating axon after proximal injury. For example, many sensory neurons receive information from a specialized sensory cilium rather than a branched dendrite arbor. We hypothesized that the lack of traditional dendrites would limit the ability of ciliated sensory neurons to respond to proximal axon injury. We tested this hypothesis by performing laser microsurgery on ciliated lch1 neurons in Drosophila larvae and tracking cells over time. These cells survived proximal axon injury as well as distal axon injury, and, like many other neurons, initiated growth from the axon stump after distal injury. After proximal injury, neurites regrew in a surprisingly flexible manner. Most cells initiated outgrowth directly from the cell body, but neurite growth could also emerge from the short axon stump or base of the cilium. New neurites were often branched. Although outgrowth after proximal axotomy was variable, it depended on the core DLK axon injury signaling pathway. Moreover, each cell had at least one new neurite specified as an axon based on microtubule polarity and accumulation of the endoplasmic reticulum. We conclude that ciliated sensory neurons are not intrinsically limited in their ability to grow a new axon after proximal axon removal.

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