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J Neurosci. 1996 Sep 1;16(17):5351-60.

Impaired differentiation of Schwann cells in transgenic mice with increased PMP22 gene dosage.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH-Hoenggerberg, Zurich, Switzerland.


An intrachromosomal duplication containing the PMP22 gene is associated with the human hereditary peripheral neuropathy Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 1A, and PMP22 overexpression as a consequence of increased PMP22 gene dosage has been suggested as causative event in this frequent disorder of peripheral nerves. We have generated transgenic mice that carry additional copies of the pmp22 gene to prove that increased PMP22 gene dosage is sufficient to cause PNS myelin deficiencies. Mice carrying approximately 16 and 30 copies of the pmp22 gene display a severe congenital hypomyelinating neuropathy as characterized by an almost complete lack of myelin and marked slowing of nerve conductions. Affected nerves contain an increased number of nonmyelinating Schwann cells, which do not form onion bulbs but align in association with axons. The mutant Schwann cells are characterized by a premyelination-like state as indicated by the expression of embryonic Schwann cell markers. Furthermore, continued Schwann cell proliferation is observed into adulthood. We hypothesize that Schwann cells are impaired in their differentiation into the myelinating phenotype, leading to a disorder comparable to severe cases of hereditary motor and sensory neuropathies. Our findings, combined with the analysis of heterozygous and homozygous PMP22-deficient mice, indicate that aberrant pmp22 gene copy numbers cause various forms of myelination defects.

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