Voltage-gated Na(+) and K(+) channels are localized to distinct subcellular domains in mammalian myelinated nerve fibers. Specifically, Na(+) channels are clustered in high densities at nodes of Ranvier, while K(+) channels are found in juxtaparanodal zones just beyond regions of axoglial contact where sequential layers of the myelin sheath terminate. Specific targeting, clustering, and maintenance of these channels in their respective domains are essential to achieve high conduction velocities of action potential propagation. The cellular, molecular, and developmental mechanisms that exist to achieve this neuronal specialization are discussed and reviewed. Current evidence points to a prominent role in channel clustering played by myelinating glial cells, and sites of axoglial contact in particular.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.