CNS/PNS interfaces constitute cell boundaries, since they delimit territories with different neuronal and glial contents. Despite their potential interest in regenerative medicine, the mechanisms restricting oligodendrocytes and astrocytes to the CNS, and Schwann cells to the PNS in mammals are not known. To investigate the involvement of peripheral glia and myelin in the maintenance of the CNS/PNS boundary, we have first made use of different mouse mutants. We show that inactivation of Krox20/Egr2, a master regulatory gene for myelination in Schwann cells, results in transgression of the CNS/PNS boundary by astrocytes and oligodendrocytes and in myelination of nerve root axons by oligodendrocytes. In contrast, such migration does not occur with the Trembler(J) mutation, which prevents PNS myelination without affecting Krox20 expression. Altogether these data suggest that maintenance of the CNS/PNS boundary requires a new Krox20 function separable from myelination control. Finally, we have analyzed a human patient affected by a congenital amyelinating neuropathy, associated with the absence of the KROX20 protein in Schwann cells. In this case, the nerve roots were also invaded by oligodendrocytes and astrocytes. This indicates that transgression of the CNS/PNS boundary by central glia can occur in pathological situations in humans and suggests that the underlying mechanisms are common with the mouse.
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