Molecular mechanisms regulating myelination in the peripheral nervous system

Trends Neurosci. 2012 Feb;35(2):123-34. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2011.11.006. Epub 2011 Dec 21.


Glial cells and neurons are engaged in a continuous and highly regulated bidirectional dialog. A remarkable example is the control of myelination. Oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system (CNS) and Schwann cells (SCs) in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) wrap their plasma membranes around axons to organize myelinated nerve fibers that allow rapid saltatory conduction. The functionality of this system is critical, as revealed by numerous neurological diseases that result from deregulation of the system, including multiple sclerosis and peripheral neuropathies. In this review we focus on PNS myelination and present a conceptual framework that integrates crucial signaling mechanisms with basic SC biology. We will highlight signaling hubs and overarching molecular mechanisms, including genetic, epigenetic, and post-translational controls, which together regulate the interplay between SCs and axons, extracellular signals, and the transcriptional network.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Myelin Sheath / physiology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System / physiology*
  • Schwann Cells / physiology*