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J Neurosci Res. 1999 Jul 15;57(2):166-75.

Multiple connexin expression in peripheral nerve, Schwann cells, and Schwannoma cells.

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Department of Medical Biochemistry, University of Wales College of Medicine, Heath Park, Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom.


Myelinating Schwann cells express the gap junction protein, connexin (Cx)32, which is present at the nodes of Ranvier and Schmidt-Lantermann incisures (Bergoffen et al. [1993] Science (Wash. ) 262:2039-2042). Following peripheral nerve injury, other members of the connexin gene family are also expressed (Chandross et al. [1996a] Mol. Cell. Neurosci. 7:501-518). This study surveys the connexin(s) expressed by rat sciatic nerve, cultured Schwann cells, and a mouse Schwannoma (TR6 Bc1) cell line. Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) amplification revealed a constitutive expression of mRNA encoding Cx32 and 43 but not Cx26, 37, 40, 45, and 46 in sciatic nerve. Mitogenic stimulation of cultured Schwann cells expressing Cx32 also resulted in the appearance of Cx43 mRNA. Schwannoma cells expressed exclusively Cx43 mRNA. These results were confirmed by Northern blot analysis. Functional gap junctions in cultured Schwann and Schwannoma cells were shown by analysis of the intercellular transfer of Lucifer yellow, although the coupling between primary Schwann cells was weak or undetectable. Treatment of primary Schwann cells with mitogens resulted in extensive dye coupling. An immunohistochemical study of adult sciatic nerve sections demonstrated Cx32 immunoreactivity at the nodes of Ranvier and in Schwann cell bodies. Lower intensity staining of Cx43 along the myelin sheath and Schwann cell bodies was also observed. Indirect immunofluorescent studies of Schwann cells treated with mitogens showed characteristic punctate cell surface staining of Cx43; Cx32 staining was detected mainly intracellularly. These results lead to the conclusion that in addition to the expression of Cx32 by normal adult sciatic nerve, low amounts of Cx43 protein are also present. The implications of the expression of two connexins by Schwann cells in Charcot-Marie-Tooth X-linked disease, a demyelinating peripheral neuropathy, are discussed.

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