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Glia. 2003 Jun;42(4):340-9.

Early onset of degenerative changes at nodes of Ranvier in alpha-motor axons of Cntf null (-/-) mutant mice.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Göteborg, Göteborg, Sweden.


The nodes of Ranvier are sites of specific interaction between Schwann cells and axons. Besides their crucial role in transmission of action potentials, the nodes of Ranvier and in particular the paranodal axon-Schwann cell networks (ASNs) are thought to function as local centers in large motor axons for removal, degradation, and disposal of organelles. In order to test whether ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF), which is present at high levels in the Schwann cell cytoplasm, is involved in the maintenance of these structures, we have examined lumbar ventral root nerve fibers of alpha-motor neurons by electron microscopy in 3- and 9-month-old Cntf null ((-/-)) mutant mice. Nerve fibers and nodes of Ranvier in 3-month-old Cntf(-/-) mutants appeared morphologically normal, except that ASNs were more voluminous in the mutants than in wild-type control animals at this age. In 9-month-old Cntf(-/-) animals, morphological changes, such as reduction in nerve fiber and axon diameter, myelin sheath disruption, and loss of ASNs at nodes of Ranvier, were observed. These findings suggest that endogenous CNTF, in addition to its role in promoting motor neuron survival and regeneration, is needed for long-term maintenance of alpha-motor nerve fibers. The premature loss of paranodal ASNs in animals lacking CNTF, which seems to be a defect related to a disturbed interaction in the nodal region between the axon and its myelinating Schwann cells, could impede the maintenance of a normal milieu in the motor axon, preceding more general neuronal damage.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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