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Nat Rev Neurosci. 2005 Sep;6(9):683-90.

Mechanisms of axon ensheathment and myelin growth.

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Centre for Neuroscience Research, University of Edinburgh, Summerhall, Edinburgh EH9 1QH, UK.


The evolution of complex nervous systems in vertebrates has been accompanied by, and probably dependent on, the acquisition of the myelin sheath. Although there has been substantial progress in our understanding of the factors that determine glial cell fate, much less is known about the cellular mechanisms that determine how the myelin sheath is extended and stabilized around axons. This review highlights four crucial stages of myelination, namely, the selection of axons and initiation of cell-cell interactions between them and glial cells, the establishment of stable intercellular contact and assembly of the nodes of Ranvier, regulation of myelin thickness and, finally, longitudinal extension of myelin segments in response to the lengthening of axons during postnatal growth.

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