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J Neurosci. 1997 Sep 1;17(17):6697-706.

Glial growth factor rescues Schwann cells of mechanoreceptors from denervation-induced apoptosis.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712, USA.


Golgi tendon organs and Pacinian corpuscles are peripheral mechanoreceptors that disappear after denervation during a critical period in early postnatal development. Even if regeneration is allowed to occur, Golgi tendon organs do not reform, and the reformation of Pacinian corpuscles is greatly impaired. The sensory nerve terminals of both types of mechanoreceptors are closely associated with Schwann cells. Here we investigate the changes in the Schwann cells found in Golgi tendon organs and Pacinian corpuscles after nerve resection in the early neonatal period. We report that denervation induces the apoptotic death of these Schwann cells and that this apoptosis can be prevented by administration of a soluble form of neuregulin, glial growth factor 2. Schwann cells associated with these mechanoreceptors are immunoreactive for the neuregulin receptors erbB2, erbB3, and erbB4, and the sensory nerve terminals are immunoreactive for neuregulin. Our results suggest that Schwann cells in developing sensory end organs are trophically dependent on sensory axon terminals and that an axon-derived neuregulin mediates this trophic interaction. The denervation-induced death of mechanoreceptor Schwann cells is correlated with deficiencies in the re-establishment of these sensory end organs by regenerating axons.

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