The importance of neural impulse activity in regulating neuronal plasticity is widely appreciated; increasingly, it is becoming apparent that activity-dependent communication between neurons and glia is critical in regulating many aspects of nervous system development and plasticity. This communication takes place not only at the synapse, but also between premyelinating axons and glia, which form myelin in the PNS and CNS. Recent work indicates that neural impulse activity releases ATP and adenosine from non-synaptic regions of neurons, which activates purinergic receptors on myelinating glia. Acting through this receptor system, neural impulse activity can regulate gene expression, mitosis, differentiation, and myelination of Schwann cells (SCs) and oligodendrocytes, helping coordinate nervous system development with functional activity in the perinatal period. ATP and adenosine have opposite effects on differentiation of Schwann cells and oligodendrocytes, providing a possible explanation for the opposite effects of impulse activity reported on myelination in the CNS and PNS.
Copyright 2003 Elsevier Ltd.