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Dev Biol. 2000 Mar 1;219(1):44-58.

The Ets domain transcription factor Erm distinguishes rat satellite glia from Schwann cells and is regulated in satellite cells by neuregulin signaling.

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Institute of Cell Biology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH-Hönggerberg, CH-8093, Switzerland.


Distinct glial cell types of the vertebrate peripheral nervous system (PNS) are derived from the neural crest. Here we show that the expression of the Ets domain transcription factor Erm distinguishes satellite glia from Schwann cells beginning early in rat PNS development. In developing dorsal root ganglia (DRG), Erm is present both in presumptive satellite glia and in neurons. In contrast, Erm is not detectable at any developmental stage in Schwann cells in peripheral nerves. In addition, Erm is downregulated in DRG-derived glia adopting Schwann cell traits in culture. Thus, Erm is the first described transcription factor expressed in satellite glia but not in Schwann cells. In culture, the Neuregulin1 (NRG1) isoform GGF2 maintains Erm expression in presumptive satellite cells and reinduces Erm expression in DRG-derived glia but not in Schwann cells from sciatic nerve. These data demonstrate that there are intrinsic differences between these glial subtypes in their response to NRG1 signaling. In neural crest cultures, Erm-positive progenitor cells give rise to two distinct glial subtypes: Erm-positive, Oct-6-negative satellite glia in response to GGF2, and Erm-negative, Oct-6-positive Schwann cells in the presence of serum and the adenylate cyclase activator forskolin. Thus, Erm-positive neural crest-derived progenitor cells and presumptive satellite glia are able to acquire Schwann cell features. Given the in vivo expression of Erm in peripheral ganglia, we suggest that ganglionic Erm-positive cells may be precursors of Schwann cells.

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