Myelin is essential for rapid and efficient action potential propagation in vertebrates. However, the molecular mechanisms regulating myelination remain incompletely characterized. For example, even before myelination begins in the PNS, Schwann cells must radially sort axons to form 1:1 associations. Schwann cells then ensheathe and wrap axons, and establish polarized, subcellular domains, including apical and basolateral domains, paranodes, and Schmidt-Lanterman incisures. Intriguingly, polarity proteins, such as Pals1/Mpp5, are highly enriched in some of these domains, suggesting that they may regulate the polarity of Schwann cells and myelination. To test this, we generated mice with Schwann cells and oligodendrocytes that lack Pals1. During early development of the PNS, Pals1-deficient mice had impaired radial sorting of axons, delayed myelination, and reduced nerve conduction velocities. Although myelination and conduction velocities eventually recovered, polyaxonal myelination remained a prominent feature of adult Pals1-deficient nerves. Despite the enrichment of Pals1 at paranodes and incisures of control mice, nodes of Ranvier and paranodes were unaffected in Pals1- deficient mice, although we measured a significant increase in the number of incisures. As in other polarized cells, we found that Pals1 interacts with Par3 and loss of Pals1 reduced levels of Par3 in Schwann cells. In the CNS, loss of Pals1 affected neither myelination nor the establishment of polarized membrane domains. These results demonstrate that Schwann cells and oligodendrocytes use distinct mechanisms to control their polarity, and that radial sorting in the PNS is a key polarization event that requires Pals1.
- Schwann cell
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