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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2013 Dec;1832(12):2068-76. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2013.07.011. Epub 2013 Jul 27.

Increased activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor in transgenic mice overexpressing epigen causes peripheral neuropathy.

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Institute of Molecular Animal Breeding and Biotechnology, Laboratory for Functional Genome Analysis (LAFUGA), Gene Center, LMU Munich, 81377 Munich, Germany. Electronic address:


In the mammalian nervous system, axons are commonly surrounded by myelin, a lipid-rich sheath that is essential for precise and rapid conduction of nerve impulses. In the peripheral nervous system (PNS), myelin sheaths are formed by Schwann cells which wrap around individual axons. While the tyrosine kinase receptors ERBB2 and ERBB3 are established mediators of peripheral myelination, less is known about the functions of the related epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in the regulation of PNS myelination. Here, we report a peripheral neurodegenerative disease caused by increased EGFR activation. Specifically, we characterize a symmetric and distally pronounced, late-onset muscular atrophy in transgenic mice overexpressing the EGFR ligand epigen. Histological examination revealed a demyelinating neuropathy and axon degeneration, and molecular analysis of signaling pathways showed reduced protein kinase B (PKB, AKT) activation in the nerves of Epigen-tg mice, indicating that the muscular phenotype is secondary to PNS demyelination and axon degeneration. Crossing of Epigen-tg mice into an EGFR-deficient background revealed the pathology to be completely EGFR-dependent. This mouse line provides a new model for studying molecular events associated with early stages of peripheral neuropathies, an essential prerequisite for the development of successful therapeutic interventions.


Axon degeneration; Demyelination; EGFR; Epigen; Mouse model

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