Role of the Extracellular Matrix in Myelination of Peripheral Nerve

Glia. 2001 Jul;35(1):35-40. doi: 10.1002/glia.1068.


Assembly of the extracellular matrix (ECM) has been tightly linked to compact myelin formation in the peripheral nervous system. We recently demonstrated that myelination of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) axons by Schwann cells may occur in the absence of basal lamina. We have now determined whether laminin deposition occurs around myelinating SC, even though basal lamina has not been assembled. DRG/SC co-cultures were prepared from E15 rat embryos and incubated in fully defined medium (B27) with and without ascorbic acid for 21-24 days. Cultures were stained with a rabbit anti-laminin antibody and examined by laser confocal fluorescence microscopy. Myelination occurred in both groups. In the presence of ascorbic acid, there was dense even laminin staining around myelinating SC. In the absence of ascorbic acid, laminin staining was also present but was irregular and less dense. DRG and SC were co-cultured without ascorbic acid in the presence or absence of a function blocking anti-beta(1) integrin receptor antibody. The antibody completely inhibited myelination. Finally, DRG/SC co-cultures were prepared both with and without ascorbic acid and incubated under control conditions or in the presence of continual, gentle motion. Movement in the absence of ECM significantly inhibited myelination. This demonstrates that laminin deposition on the surface of SC but not ECM assembly is required for formation of compact myelin. ECM is required to provide mechanical stability during the process of myelination.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ascorbic Acid / metabolism
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology
  • Basement Membrane / embryology
  • Basement Membrane / metabolism
  • Basement Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Matrix / ultrastructure
  • Ganglia, Spinal / embryology*
  • Ganglia, Spinal / metabolism
  • Ganglia, Spinal / ultrastructure
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Laminin / metabolism
  • Laminin / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / metabolism*
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / ultrastructure
  • Peripheral Nerves / embryology*
  • Peripheral Nerves / metabolism
  • Peripheral Nerves / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Schwann Cells / metabolism
  • Schwann Cells / ultrastructure


  • Laminin
  • Ascorbic Acid