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Neuron. 1997 Jan;18(1):59-70.

Assembly of CNS myelin in the absence of proteolipid protein.

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Zentrum für Molekulare Biologie (ZMBH) University of Heidelburg, Federal Republic of Germany.


Two proteolipid proteins, PLP and DM20, are the major membrane components of central nervous system (CNS) myelin. Mutations of the X-linked PLP/DM20 gene cause dysmyelination in mouse and man and result in significant mortality. Here we show that mutant mice that lack expression of a targeted PLP gene fail to exhibit the known dysmyelinated phenotype. Unable to encode PLP/DM20 or PLP-related polypeptides, oligodendrocytes are still competent to myelinate CNS axons of all calibers and to assemble compacted myelin sheaths. Ultrastructurally, however, the electron-dense 'intraperiod' lines in myelin remain condensed, correlating with its reduced physical stability. This suggests that after myelin compaction, PLP forms a stabilizing membrane junction, similar to a "zipper." Dysmyelination and oligodendrocyte death emerge as an epiphenomenon of other PLP mutations and have been uncoupled in the PLP null allele from the risk of premature myelin breakdown.

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