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J Neurosci Res. 1999 May 15;56(4):334-48.

Schwann cell development in embryonic mouse nerves.

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Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, University College London, United Kingdom.


Previously we proposed that Schwann cell development from the neural crest is a two-step process that involves the generation of one main intermediate cell type, the Schwann cell precursor. Until now Schwann cell precursors have only been identified in the rat, and much remains to be learned about these cells and how they generate Schwann cells. Here we identify this cell in the mouse and analyze its transition to form Schwann cells in terms of timing, molecular expression, and extracellular signals and intracellular pathways involved in survival, proliferation, and differentiation. In the mouse, the transition from precursors to Schwann cells takes place 2 days earlier than in the rat, i.e., between embryo days 12/13 and 15/16, and is accompanied by the appearance of the 04 antigen and the establishment of an autocrine survival circuit. Beta neuregulins block precursor apoptosis and support Schwann cell generation in vitro, a process that is accelerated by basic fibroblast growth factor 2. The development of Schwann cells from precursors also involves a change in the intracellular survival signals utilized by neuregulins: To block precursor death neuregulins need to signal through both the mitogen-activated protein kinase and the phosphoinositide-3-kinase pathways although neuregulins support Schwann cell survival by signaling through the phosphoinositide-3-kinase pathway alone. Last, we describe the generation of precursor cultures from single 12-day-old embryos, a prerequisite for culture studies of genetically altered precursors when embryos are non-identical with respect to the transgene in question.

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