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Concept: Nodes of Ranvier


Myelination and voltage-gated ion channel clustering at the nodes of Ranvier are essential for the rapid saltatory conduction of action potentials. Whether myelination influences the structural organization of the axon initial segment (AIS) and action potential initiation is poorly understood. Using the cuprizone mouse model, we combined electrophysiological recordings with immunofluorescence of the voltage-gated Nav1.6 and Kv7.3 subunits and anchoring proteins to analyze the functional and structural properties of single demyelinated neocortical L5 axons. Whole-cell recordings demonstrated that neurons with demyelinated axons were intrinsically more excitable, characterized by increased spontaneous suprathreshold depolarizations as well as antidromically propagating action potentials ectopically generated in distal parts of the axon. Immunofluorescence examination of demyelinated axons showed that βIV-spectrin, Nav1.6, and the Kv7.3 channels in nodes of Ranvier either dissolved or extended into the paranodal domains. In contrast, while the AIS in demyelinated axons started more closely to the soma, ankyrin G, βIV-spectrin, and the ion channel expression were maintained. Structure-function analysis and computational modeling, constrained by the AIS location and realistic dendritic and axonal morphologies, confirmed that a more proximal onset of the AIS slightly reduced the efficacy of action potential generation, suggesting a compensatory role. These results suggest that oligodendroglial myelination is not only important for maximizing conduction velocity, but also for limiting hyperexcitability of pyramidal neurons.

Concepts: Nodes of Ranvier, Oligodendrocyte, Saltatory conduction, Nervous system, Myelin, Axon, Neuron, Action potential


Hidden hearing loss (HHL) is a recently described auditory neuropathy believed to contribute to speech discrimination and intelligibility deficits in people with normal audiological tests. Animals and humans with HHL have normal auditory thresholds but defective cochlear neurotransmission, that is, reduced suprathreshold amplitude of the sound-evoked auditory nerve compound action potential. Currently, the only cellular mechanism known for HHL is loss of inner hair cell synapses (synaptopathy). Here we report that transient loss of cochlear Schwann cells results in permanent auditory deficits characteristic of HHL. This auditory neuropathy is not associated with synaptic loss, but rather with disruption of the first heminodes at the auditory nerve peripheral terminal. Thus, this study identifies a new mechanism for HHL, highlights the long-term consequences of transient Schwann cell loss on hearing and might provide insights into the causes of the auditory deficits reported in patients that recover from acute demyelinating diseases such as Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Concepts: Nodes of Ranvier, Theodor Schwann, Oligodendrocyte, Schwann cell, Myelin, Auditory system, Cochlea, Action potential


Transected axons fail to regrow in the mature central nervous system. Astrocytic scars are widely regarded as causal in this failure. Here, using three genetically targeted loss-of-function manipulations in adult mice, we show that preventing astrocyte scar formation, attenuating scar-forming astrocytes, or ablating chronic astrocytic scars all failed to result in spontaneous regrowth of transected corticospinal, sensory or serotonergic axons through severe spinal cord injury (SCI) lesions. By contrast, sustained local delivery via hydrogel depots of required axon-specific growth factors not present in SCI lesions, plus growth-activating priming injuries, stimulated robust, laminin-dependent sensory axon regrowth past scar-forming astrocytes and inhibitory molecules in SCI lesions. Preventing astrocytic scar formation significantly reduced this stimulated axon regrowth. RNA sequencing revealed that astrocytes and non-astrocyte cells in SCI lesions express multiple axon-growth-supporting molecules. Our findings show that contrary to the prevailing dogma, astrocyte scar formation aids rather than prevents central nervous system axon regeneration.

Concepts: Nodes of Ranvier, Brain, Failure, Axon, Spinal cord, Neuron, Central nervous system, Nervous system


Previously, we demonstrated i) that ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) increases axon diameter and potentiates nerve regeneration in a rat model of transected peripheral nerve and ii) that cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) improves breathing and hyper-reflexia in a rat model of paraplegia. However, before bringing this molecule to the clinic, it was of prime importance i) to assess which form - ergocalciferol versus cholecalciferol - and which dose were the most efficient and ii) to identify the molecular pathways activated by this pleiotropic molecule. The rat left peroneal nerve was cut out on a length of 10 mm and autografted in an inverted position. Animals were treated with either cholecalciferol or ergocalciferol, at the dose of 100 or 500 IU/kg/day, or excipient (Vehicle), and compared to unlesioned rats (Control). Functional recovery of hindlimb was measured weekly, during 12 weeks, using the peroneal functional index. Ventilatory, motor and sensitive responses of the regenerated axons were recorded and histological analysis was performed. In parallel, to identify the genes regulated by vitamin D in dorsal root ganglia and/or Schwann cells, we performed an in vitro transcriptome study. We observed that cholecalciferol is more efficient than ergocalciferol and, when delivered at a high dose (500 IU/kg/day), cholecalciferol induces a significant locomotor and electrophysiological recovery. We also demonstrated that cholecalciferol increases i) the number of preserved or newly formed axons in the proximal end, ii) the mean axon diameter in the distal end, and iii) neurite myelination in both distal and proximal ends. Finally, we found a modified expression of several genes involved in axogenesis and myelination, after 24 hours of vitamin supplementation. Our study is the first to demonstrate that vitamin D acts on myelination via the activation of several myelin-associated genes. It paves the way for future randomised controlled clinical trials for peripheral nerve or spinal cord repair.

Concepts: Nodes of Ranvier, Oligodendrocyte, Myelin, Neuron, Axon, Nervous system, Vitamin D, Action potential


We identified a suitable biomatrix that improved axon regeneration and functional outcome after partial (moderate) and complete (severe) chronic spinal cord injury (SCI) in rat. Five weeks after dorsal thoracic hemisection injury the lesion scar was resected via aspiration and the resulting cavity was filled with different biopolymers such as Matrigel™, alginate-hydrogel and polyethylene glycol 600 (PEG) all of which have not previously been used as sole graft-materials in chronic SCI. Immunohistological staining revealed marked differences between these compounds regarding axon regeneration, invasion/elongation of astrocytes, fibroblasts, endothelial and Schwann cells, revascularization, and collagen deposition. According to axon regeneration-supporting effects, the biopolymers could be ranked in the order PEG >alginate-hydrogel>Matrigel™. Even after complete chronic transection, the PEG-bridge allowed long-distance axon regeneration through the grafted area and for, at least, 1cm beyond the lesion/graft border. As revealed by electron microscopy, bundles of regenerating axons within the matrix area received myelin ensheathment from Schwann cells. The beneficial effects of PEG-implantation into the resection-cavity were accompanied by long-lasting significant locomotor improvement over a period of 8months. Following complete spinal re-transection at the rostral border of the PEG-graft the locomotor recovery was aborted, suggesting a functional role of regenerated axons in the initial locomotor improvement. In conclusion, scar resection and subsequent implantation of PEG into the generated cavity leads to tissue recovery, axon regeneration, myelination and functional improvement that have not been achieved before in severe chronic SCI.

Concepts: Regeneration, Nodes of Ranvier, Neuron, Nervous system, Oligodendrocyte, Action potential, Myelin


Action potential timing is fundamental to information processing; however, its determinants are not fully understood. Here we report unexpected structural specializations in the Ranvier nodes and internodes of auditory brainstem axons involved in sound localization. Myelination properties deviated significantly from the traditionally assumed structure. Axons responding best to low-frequency sounds had a larger diameter than high-frequency axons but, surprisingly, shorter internodes. Simulations predicted that this geometry helps to adjust the conduction velocity and timing of action potentials within the circuit. Electrophysiological recordings in vitro and in vivo confirmed higher conduction velocities in low-frequency axons. Moreover, internode length decreased and Ranvier node diameter increased progressively along the distal axon segments, which simulations show was essential to ensure precisely timed depolarization of the giant calyx of Held presynaptic terminal. Thus, individual anatomical parameters of myelinated axons can be tuned to optimize pathways involved in temporal processing.

Concepts: Neurophysiology, Saltatory conduction, Oligodendrocyte, Nodes of Ranvier, Myelin, Axon, Neuron, Action potential


Since Río-Hortega’s description of oligodendrocyte morphologies nearly a century ago, many studies have observed myelin sheath-length diversity between CNS regions [1-3]. Myelin sheath length directly impacts axonal conduction velocity by influencing the spacing between nodes of Ranvier. Such differences likely affect neural signal coordination and synchronization [4]. What accounts for regional differences in myelin sheath lengths is unknown; are myelin sheath lengths determined solely by axons or do intrinsic properties of different oligodendrocyte precursor cell populations affect length? The prevailing view is that axons provide molecular cues necessary for oligodendrocyte myelination and appropriate sheath lengths. This view is based upon the observation that axon diameters correlate with myelin sheath length [1, 5, 6], as well as reports that PNS axonal neuregulin-1 type III regulates the initiation and properties of Schwann cell myelin sheaths [7, 8]. However, in the CNS, no such instructive molecules have been shown to be required, and increasing in vitro evidence supports an oligodendrocyte-driven, neuron-independent ability to differentiate and form initial sheaths [9-12]. We test this alternative signal-independent hypothesis-that variation in internode lengths reflects regional oligodendrocyte-intrinsic properties. Using microfibers, we find that oligodendrocytes have a remarkable ability to self-regulate the formation of compact, multilamellar myelin and generate sheaths of physiological length. Our results show that oligodendrocytes respond to fiber diameters and that spinal cord oligodendrocytes generate longer sheaths than cortical oligodendrocytes on fibers, co-cultures, and explants, revealing that oligodendrocytes have regional identity and generate different sheath lengths that mirror internodes in vivo.

Concepts: Neuron, Nervous system, Schwann cell, Nodes of Ranvier, Oligodendrocyte, Action potential, Axon, Myelin


The rationale for implantation of autologous human Schwann cells (SCs) in people with subacute spinal cord injury (SCI) is based on evidence that transplanted SCs are neuroprotective, support local axonal plasticity, and are capable of myelinating axons. A Phase I clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the safety of autologous human SC transplantation into the injury epicenter of six subjects with subacute SCI. The trial was an open-label, unblinded, non-randomized, non-placebo controlled study with a dose escalation design and standard medical rehabilitation. Participants were paraplegics with neurologically complete, trauma-induced spinal lesions. Autologous SCs were cultured in vitro from a sural nerve harvested from each participant and injected into the epicenter of the spinal lesion. Outcome measures for safety were protocol compliance, feasibility, adverse events, stability of neurologic level, absence of detectable mass lesion, and the emergence of clinically significant neuropathic pain or muscle spasticity no greater than expected for a natural course cohort. One year post-transplantation, there were no surgical, medical, or neurological complications to indicate that the timing or procedure for the cell transplantation were unsafe. There were no adverse events or serious adverse events related to the cell therapy. There was no evidence of additional spinal cord damage, mass lesion, or syrinx formation. We conclude that it is feasible to identify eligible candidates, appropriately obtain informed consent, perform a peripheral nerve harvest to obtain SCs within 5-30 days of injury, and perform an intra-spinal transplantation of highly purified autologous SCs within 4-7 weeks of injury.

Concepts: Nodes of Ranvier, Muscle, Theodor Schwann, Clinical trial, Spinal cord injury, Informed consent, Neurology, Action potential


Oligodendrocytes form myelin around axons of the central nervous system, enabling saltatory conduction. Recent work has established that axons can regulate certain aspects of oligodendrocyte development and myelination, yet remarkably oligodendrocytes in culture retain the ability to differentiate in the absence of axons and elaborate myelin sheaths around synthetic axon-like substrates. It remains unclear the extent to which the life-course of oligodendrocytes requires the presence of, or signals derived from axons in vivo. In particular, it is unclear whether the specific axons fated for myelination regulate the oligodendrocyte population in a living organism, and if so, which precise steps of oligodendrocyte-cell lineage progression are regulated by target axons. Here, we use live-imaging of zebrafish larvae carrying transgenic reporters that label oligodendrocyte-lineage cells to investigate which aspects of oligodendrocyte development, from specification to differentiation, are affected when we manipulate the target axonal environment. To drastically reduce the number of axons targeted for myelination, we use a previously identified kinesin-binding protein (kbp) mutant, in which the first myelinated axons in the spinal cord, reticulospinal axons, do not fully grow in length, creating a region in the posterior spinal cord where most initial targets for myelination are absent. We find that a 73% reduction of reticulospinal axon surface in the posterior spinal cord of kbp mutants results in a 27% reduction in the number of oligodendrocytes. By time-lapse analysis of transgenic OPC reporters, we find that the reduction in oligodendrocyte number is explained by a reduction in OPC proliferation and survival. Interestingly, OPC specification and migration are unaltered in the near absence of normal axonal targets. Finally, we find that timely differentiation of OPCs into oligodendrocytes does not depend at all on the presence of target axons. Together, our data illustrate the power of zebrafish for studying the entire life-course of the oligodendrocyte lineage in vivo in an altered axonal environment.

Concepts: Nodes of Ranvier, Oligodendrocyte, Saltatory conduction, Neuron, Action potential, Axon, Myelin, Nervous system


Recently mesenchymal stem cells have demonstrated a potential for neurotrophy and neurodifferentiation. We have recently isolated mobilized dental pulp stem cells (MDPSCs) using granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) gradient which have high neurotrophic/angiogenic potential. The aim of this study is to investigate the effects of MDPSCs transplantation on peripheral nerve regeneration. Effects of MDPSCs transplantation were examined in a rat sciatic nerve defect model and compared with autografts and control conduits containing collagen scaffold. Effects of conditioned medium of MDPSCs were also evaluated in vitro. Transplantation of MDPSCs in the defect demonstrated regeneration of myelinated fibers, whose axons were significantly higher in density compared with those in autografts and control conduits only. Enhanced revascularization was also observed in the MDPSCs transplants. The MDPSCs did not directly differentiate into Schwann cell phenotype; localization of these cells near Schwann cells induced several neurotrophic factors. Immunofluorescence labelling demonstrated reduced apoptosis, and increased proliferation in resident Schwann cells in the MDPSCs transplant compared with control conduits. These trophic effects of MDPSCs on proliferation, migration and anti-apoptosis in Schwann cells were further elucidated in vitro. The results demonstrate that MDPSCs promote axon regeneration through trophic functions, acting on Schwann cells, and promoting angiogenesis.

Concepts: Nodes of Ranvier, Organ transplant, Mesenchymal stem cell, Theodor Schwann, Oligodendrocyte, Stem cell, Myelin, Action potential