Hypothesis of an energetic function for myelin

Cell Biochem Biophys. 2011 Sep;61(1):179-87. doi: 10.1007/s12013-011-9174-8.


Nervous system is a great oxygen consumer, but the site of oxygen absorption has remained elusive. Four proteomic studies have shown that the respiratory complexes I to V may be expressed in isolated myelin. Myelin is an outgrowth of glial cells, surrounding many axons in multiple spires both in peripheral and central nervous system. Recent quantitative analyses strongly support the daring hypothesis that myelin is functional in aerobic ATP production, to supply the neuron with chemical energy. A vision of myelin sheath as a structure devoted to the oxygen absorbance for glucose combustion in nervous system thank to its enormous surface, would be also supported by an impressive series of characteristics and properties of myelin that do not presently find an explanation, all of which are herein examined.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Gap Junctions / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mitochondrial Proton-Translocating ATPases / analysis
  • Myelin Sheath / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation


  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • F1F0-ATP synthase
  • Mitochondrial Proton-Translocating ATPases
  • Oxygen