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Glia. 2005 Sep;51(4):254-65.

Schwann cells express erythropoietin receptor and represent a major target for Epo in peripheral nerve injury.

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Department of Anesthesiology, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, La Jolla, California 92093-0629, USA.


Erythropoietin (Epo) expresses potent neuroprotective activity in the peripheral nervous system; however, the underlying mechanism remains incompletely understood. In this study, we demonstrate that Epo is upregulated in sciatic nerve after chronic constriction injury (CCI) and crush injury in rats, largely due to local Schwann cell production. In uninjured and injured nerves, Schwann cells also express Epo receptor (EpoR), and its expression is increased during Wallerian degeneration. CCI increased the number of Schwann cells at the injury site and the number was further increased by exogenously administered recombinant human Epo (rhEpo). To explore the activity of Epo in Schwann cells, primary cultures were established. These cells expressed cell-surface Epo receptors, with masses of 71 and 62 kDa, as determined by surface protein biotinylation and affinity precipitation. The 71-kDa species was rapidly but transiently tyrosine-phosphorylated in response to rhEpo. ERK/MAP kinase was also activated in rhEpo-treated Schwann cells; this response was blocked by pharmacologic antagonism of JAK-2. RhEpo promoted Schwann cell proliferation, as determined by BrdU incorporation. Cell proliferation was ERK/MAP kinase-dependent. These results support a model in which Schwann cells are a major target for Epo in injured peripheral nerves, perhaps within the context of an autocrine signaling pathway. EpoR-induced cell signaling and Schwann cell proliferation may protect injured peripheral nerves and promote regeneration.

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