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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Dec 4;98(25):14661-8. Epub 2001 Nov 20.

Neurotrophins are key mediators of the myelination program in the peripheral nervous system.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Although knowledge of the functions of neurotrophins has advanced rapidly in recent years, studies concerning the involvement of neurotrophins in glial-neuronal interactions rarely extend further than their roles in supporting the survival and differentiation of neuronal cells. In this study endogenous brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT3) were identified in Schwann cell/dorsal root ganglia neuronal cocultures and shown to modulate the myelination program of the peripheral nervous system. The differential expression of BDNF and NT3 were examined and compared with the expression profiles of myelin proteins in the cocultures throughout the myelination process. BDNF levels correlated with active myelin formation, whereas NT3 expression was initially high and then down regulated throughout the proliferation and premyelination periods. Addition of exogenous BDNF enhanced myelination, whereas the removal of the endogenous BDNF by using the BDNF receptor TrkB-Fc fusion protein inhibited the formation of mature myelin internodes. Interestingly, exogenous NT3 significantly inhibited myelination, whereas the removal of the endogenous NT3 by using the NT3 receptor TrkC-Fc fusion protein resulted in an enhancement similar to that obtained with the addition of BDNF. In addition, in vivo studies were performed during the development of the mouse sciatic nerve. Subcutaneous injections of BDNF resulted in an enhancement of myelin formation in the sciatic nerve, whereas the removal of the endogenous BDNF dramatically inhibited myelination. Injections of NT3 inhibited myelin formation, and the removal of the endogenous NT3 enhanced myelination. These results demonstrate that BDNF and NT3 possess different modulatory roles in the myelination program of the peripheral nervous system and that their mechanisms of action are specific and highly regulated.

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