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Concept: Oligodendrocyte


Progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) is a severely disabling neurological condition, and an effective treatment is urgently needed. Recently, high-dose biotin has emerged as a promising therapy for affected individuals. Initial clinical data have shown that daily doses of biotin of up to 300 mg can improve objective measures of MS-related disability. In this article, we review the biology of biotin and explore the properties of this ubiquitous coenzyme that may explain the encouraging responses seen in patients with progressive MS. The gradual worsening of neurological disability in patients with progressive MS is caused by progressive axonal loss or damage. The triggers for axonal loss in MS likely include both inflammatory demyelination of the myelin sheath and primary neurodegeneration caused by a state of virtual hypoxia within the neuron. Accordingly, targeting both these pathological processes could be effective in the treatment of progressive MS. Biotin is an essential co-factor for five carboxylases involved in fatty acid synthesis and energy production. We hypothesize that high-dose biotin is exerting a therapeutic effect in patients with progressive MS through two different and complementary mechanisms: by promoting axonal remyelination by enhancing myelin production and by reducing axonal hypoxia through enhanced energy production.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Action potential, Multiple sclerosis, Neurology, Axon, Myelin, Oligodendrocyte


Current methods for studying central nervous system myelination necessitate permissive axonal substrates conducive to myelin wrapping by oligodendrocytes. We have developed a neuron-free culture system in which electron-spun nanofibers of varying sizes substitute for axons as a substrate for oligodendrocyte myelination, thereby allowing manipulation of the biophysical elements of axonal-oligodendroglial interactions. To investigate axonal regulation of myelination, this system effectively uncouples the role of molecular (inductive) cues from that of biophysical properties of the axon. We use this method to uncover the causation and sufficiency of fiber diameter in the initiation of concentric wrapping by rat oligodendrocytes. We also show that oligodendrocyte precursor cells display sensitivity to the biophysical properties of fiber diameter and initiate membrane ensheathment before differentiation. The use of nanofiber scaffolds will enable screening for potential therapeutic agents that promote oligodendrocyte differentiation and myelination and will also provide valuable insight into the processes involved in remyelination.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Action potential, Multiple sclerosis, Axon, Myelin, Oligodendrocyte, Saltatory conduction


We previously reported that autosomal recessive demyelinating Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) type 4B1 neuropathy with myelin outfoldings is caused by loss of MTMR2 (Myotubularin-related 2) in humans, and we created a faithful mouse model of the disease. MTMR2 dephosphorylates both PtdIns3P and PtdIns(3,5)P(2), thereby regulating membrane trafficking. However, the function of MTMR2 and the role of the MTMR2 phospholipid phosphatase activity in vivo in the nerve still remain to be assessed. Mutations in FIG4 are associated with CMT4J neuropathy characterized by both axonal and myelin damage in peripheral nerve. Loss of Fig4 function in the plt (pale tremor) mouse produces spongiform degeneration of the brain and peripheral neuropathy. Since FIG4 has a role in generation of PtdIns(3,5)P(2) and MTMR2 catalyzes its dephosphorylation, these two phosphatases might be expected to have opposite effects in the control of PtdIns(3,5)P(2) homeostasis and their mutations might have compensatory effects in vivo. To explore the role of the MTMR2 phospholipid phosphatase activity in vivo, we generated and characterized the Mtmr2/Fig4 double null mutant mice. Here we provide strong evidence that Mtmr2 and Fig4 functionally interact in both Schwann cells and neurons, and we reveal for the first time a role of Mtmr2 in neurons in vivo. Our results also suggest that imbalance of PtdIns(3,5)P(2) is at the basis of altered longitudinal myelin growth and of myelin outfolding formation. Reduction of Fig4 by null heterozygosity and downregulation of PIKfyve both rescue Mtmr2-null myelin outfoldings in vivo and in vitro.

Concepts: Nervous system, Action potential, Axon, Myelin, Oligodendrocyte, Glial cell, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, Schwann cell


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


Following traumatic spinal cord injury, acute demyelination of spinal axons is followed by a period of spontaneous remyelination. However, this endogenous repair response is suboptimal and may account for the persistently compromised function of surviving axons. Spontaneous remyelination is largely mediated by Schwann cells, where demyelinated central axons, particularly in the dorsal columns, become associated with peripheral myelin. The molecular control, functional role and origin of these central remyelinating Schwann cells is currently unknown. The growth factor neuregulin-1 (Nrg1, encoded by NRG1) is a key signalling factor controlling myelination in the peripheral nervous system, via signalling through ErbB tyrosine kinase receptors. Here we examined whether Nrg1 is required for Schwann cell-mediated remyelination of central dorsal column axons and whether Nrg1 ablation influences the degree of spontaneous remyelination and functional recovery following spinal cord injury. In contused adult mice with conditional ablation of Nrg1, we found an absence of Schwann cells within the spinal cord and profound demyelination of dorsal column axons. There was no compensatory increase in oligodendrocyte remyelination. Removal of peripheral input to the spinal cord and proliferation studies demonstrated that the majority of remyelinating Schwann cells originated within the injured spinal cord. We also examined the role of specific Nrg1 isoforms, using mutant mice in which only the immunoglobulin-containing isoforms of Nrg1 (types I and II) were conditionally ablated, leaving the type III Nrg1 intact. We found that the immunoglobulin Nrg1 isoforms were dispensable for Schwann cell-mediated remyelination of central axons after spinal cord injury. When functional effects were examined, both global Nrg1 and immunoglobulin-specific Nrg1 mutants demonstrated reduced spontaneous locomotor recovery compared to injured controls, although global Nrg1 mutants were more impaired in tests requiring co-ordination, balance and proprioception. Furthermore, electrophysiological assessments revealed severely impaired axonal conduction in the dorsal columns of global Nrg1 mutants (where Schwann cell-mediated remyelination is prevented), but not immunoglobulin-specific mutants (where Schwann cell-mediated remyelination remains intact), providing robust evidence that the profound demyelinating phenotype observed in the dorsal columns of Nrg1 mutant mice is related to conduction failure. Our data provide novel mechanistic insight into endogenous regenerative processes after spinal cord injury, demonstrating that Nrg1 signalling regulates central axon remyelination and functional repair and drives the trans-differentiation of central precursor cells into peripheral nervous system-like Schwann cells that remyelinate spinal axons after injury. Manipulation of the Nrg1 system could therefore be exploited to enhance spontaneous repair after spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders with a demyelinating

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Neuron, Action potential, Axon, Myelin, Oligodendrocyte, Peripheral nervous system


The length of myelin sheaths affects conduction speed along axons and information propagation. It has recently become clear that myelin may be adaptively modified to modulate circuit function, implying that length remodeling of myelin sheaths should occur. However, direct evidence for such events is lacking. We have investigated how myelination patterns are formed, maintained, and remodeled using long-term imaging and myelin ablation in zebrafish. We demonstrate that length differences between myelin sheaths are established by rapid and variable growth within 3 days after their formation, independently of their time of formation, and even along discontinuously myelinated axons. Afterward, sheaths continue extending at similar rates to compensate for overall animal growth. In consequence, once axon myelination patterns are established, they are maintained over long periods of time. We tested whether mature myelin sheaths can remodel by removing individual sheaths from single axons by targeted ablation. Remarkably, extensive changes in sheath length and number occurred, which frequently restored the original myelination pattern. Our results show that axons can control myelin growth and remodeling, and we provide evidence for a homeostatic control of axon myelination patterns by maintenance and remodeling of myelin sheath length, with implications for circuit development, function, and repair.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Action potential, Multiple sclerosis, Axon, Myelin, Oligodendrocyte, Saltatory conduction


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


Early social isolation results in adult behavioral and cognitive dysfunction that correlates with white matter alterations. However, how social deprivation influences myelination and the significance of these myelin defects in the adult remained undefined. We show that mice isolated for 2 weeks immediately after weaning have alterations in prefrontal cortex function and myelination that do not recover with reintroduction into a social environment. These alterations, which occur only during this critical period, are phenocopied by loss of oligodendrocyte ErbB3 receptors, and social isolation leads to reduced expression of the ErbB3 ligand neuregulin-1. These findings indicate that social experience regulates prefrontal cortex myelination through neuregulin-1/ErbB3 signaling and that this is essential for normal cognitive function, thus providing a cellular and molecular context to understand the consequences of social isolation.

Concepts: Brain, Sociology, Cerebrum, Axon, Myelin, Oligodendrocyte, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Prefrontal cortex


We have previously shown that myelin abnormalities characterize the normal aging process of the brain and that an age-associated reduction in Klotho is conserved across species. Predominantly generated in brain and kidney, Klotho overexpression extends life span, whereas loss of Klotho accelerates the development of aging-like phenotypes. Although the function of Klotho in brain is unknown, loss of Klotho expression leads to cognitive deficits. We found significant effects of Klotho on oligodendrocyte functions, including induced maturation of rat primary oligodendrocytic progenitor cells (OPCs) in vitro and myelination. Phosphoprotein analysis indicated that Klotho’s downstream effects involve Akt and ERK signal pathways. Klotho increased OPC maturation, and inhibition of Akt or ERK function blocked this effect on OPCs. In vivo studies of Klotho knock-out mice and control littermates revealed that knock-out mice have a significant reduction in major myelin protein and gene expression. By immunohistochemistry, the number of total and mature oligodendrocytes was significantly lower in Klotho knock-out mice. Strikingly, at the ultrastructural level, Klotho knock-out mice exhibited significantly impaired myelination of the optic nerve and corpus callosum. These mice also displayed severe abnormalities at the nodes of Ranvier. To decipher the mechanisms by which Klotho affects oligodendrocytes, we used luciferase pathway reporters to identify the transcription factors involved. Together, these studies provide novel evidence for Klotho as a key player in myelin biology, which may thus be a useful therapeutic target in efforts to protect brain myelin against age-dependent changes and promote repair in multiple sclerosis.

Concepts: Nervous system, Gene, Gene expression, Action potential, Multiple sclerosis, Axon, Myelin, Oligodendrocyte


JC virus (JCV) is an opportunistic virus known to cause progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. Anti-JC virus (Anti-JCV) antibody prevalence in a large, geographically diverse, multi-national multiple sclerosis (MS) cohort was compared in a cross-sectional study. Overall, anti-JCV antibody prevalence was 57.6%. Anti-JCV antibody prevalence in MS patients ranged from approximately 47% to 68% across these countries: Norway, 47.4%; Denmark, 52.6%; Israel, 56.6%; France, 57.6%; Italy, 58.3%; Sweden, 59.0%; Germany, 59.1%; Austria, 66.7% and Turkey, 67.7%. Prevalence increased with age (from 49.5% in patients < 30 years of age to 66.5% in patients ≥ 60 years of age; p < 0.0001 comparing all age categories), was lower in females than in males (55.8% versus 61.9%; p < 0.0001) and was not affected by prior immunosuppressant or natalizumab use.

Concepts: AIDS, Multiple sclerosis, Oligodendrocyte, Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, JC virus, Rituximab, Polyomavirus, Natalizumab