Myelin proteomics: molecular anatomy of an insulating sheath

Mol Neurobiol. 2009 Aug;40(1):55-72. doi: 10.1007/s12035-009-8071-2. Epub 2009 May 19.


Fast-transmitting vertebrate axons are electrically insulated with multiple layers of nonconductive plasma membrane of glial cell origin, termed myelin. The myelin membrane is dominated by lipids, and its protein composition has historically been viewed to be of very low complexity. In this review, we discuss an updated reference compendium of 342 proteins associated with central nervous system myelin that represents a valuable resource for analyzing myelin biogenesis and white matter homeostasis. Cataloging the myelin proteome has been made possible by technical advances in the separation and mass spectrometric detection of proteins, also referred to as proteomics. This led to the identification of a large number of novel myelin-associated proteins, many of which represent low abundant components involved in catalytic activities, the cytoskeleton, vesicular trafficking, or cell adhesion. By mass spectrometry-based quantification, proteolipid protein and myelin basic protein constitute 17% and 8% of total myelin protein, respectively, suggesting that their abundance was previously overestimated. As the biochemical profile of myelin-associated proteins is highly reproducible, differential proteome analyses can be applied to material isolated from patients or animal models of myelin-related diseases such as multiple sclerosis and leukodystrophies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Demyelinating Diseases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Myelin Proteins / chemistry*
  • Myelin Proteins / metabolism
  • Myelin Sheath / chemistry*
  • Myelin Sheath / genetics
  • Myelin Sheath / metabolism
  • Proteolipids / metabolism
  • Proteomics*


  • Myelin Proteins
  • Proteolipids