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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 May 10;108(19):8009-14. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1019600108. Epub 2011 Apr 25.

Schwann cell spectrins modulate peripheral nerve myelination.

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Department of Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


During peripheral nerve development, Schwann cells ensheathe axons and form myelin to enable rapid and efficient action potential propagation. Although myelination requires profound changes in Schwann cell shape, how neuron-glia interactions converge on the Schwann cell cytoskeleton to induce these changes is unknown. Here, we demonstrate that the submembranous cytoskeletal proteins αII and βII spectrin are polarized in Schwann cells and colocalize with signaling molecules known to modulate myelination in vitro. Silencing expression of these spectrins inhibited myelination in vitro, and remyelination in vivo. Furthermore, myelination was disrupted in motor nerves of zebrafish lacking αII spectrin. Finally, we demonstrate that loss of spectrin significantly reduces both F-actin in the Schwann cell cytoskeleton and the Nectin-like protein, Necl4, at the contact site between Schwann cells and axons. Therefore, we propose αII and βII spectrin in Schwann cells integrate the neuron-glia interactions mediated by membrane proteins into the actin-dependent cytoskeletal rearrangements necessary for myelination.

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