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J Neurocytol. 2003 Jun-Sep;32(5-8):975-85.

Terminal Schwann cells guide the reinnervation of muscle after nerve injury.

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1
Section of Neurobiology, C0920, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712, USA.

Abstract

Schwann cells and axons labeled by transgene-encoded, fluorescent proteins can be repeatedly imaged in living mice to observe the reinnervation of neuromuscular junctions. Axons typically return to denervated junctions by growing along Schwann cells contained in the old nerve sheaths or "Schwann cell tubes". These axons then commonly "escape" the synaptic sites by growing along the Schwann cell processes extended during the period of denervation. These "escaped fibers" grow to innervate adjacent synaptic sites along Schwann cells bridging these sites. Within the synaptic site, Schwann cells, originally positioned above the synaptic site continue to cover the acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) immediately following denervation, but gradually vacate portions of this site. When regenerating axons return, they first deploy along the Schwann cells and ignore sites of AChRs vacated by Schwann cells. In many cases these vacated sites are never reinnervated and are ultimately lost. Following partial denervation, Schwann cells grow in an apparently tropic fashion from denervated to nearby innervated synaptic sites and serve as the substrates for nerve sprouting. These experiments show that Schwann cells provide pathways that stimulate axon growth and insure the rapid reinnervation of denervated or partially denervated muscles.

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