Remodeling myelination: implications for mechanisms of neural plasticity

Nat Neurosci. 2016 Feb;19(2):190-7. doi: 10.1038/nn.4200.


One of the most significant paradigm shifts in membrane remodeling is the emerging view that membrane transformation is not exclusively controlled by cytoskeletal rearrangement, but also by biophysical constraints, adhesive forces, membrane curvature and compaction. One of the most exquisite examples of membrane remodeling is myelination. The advent of myelin was instrumental in advancing the nervous system during vertebrate evolution. With more rapid and efficient communication between neurons, faster and more complex computations could be performed in a given time and space. Our knowledge of how myelin-forming oligodendrocytes select and wrap axons has been limited by insufficient spatial and temporal resolution. By virtue of recent technological advances, progress has clarified longstanding controversies in the field. Here we review insights into myelination, from target selection to axon wrapping and membrane compaction, and discuss how understanding these processes has unexpectedly opened new avenues of insight into myelination-centered mechanisms of neural plasticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Myelin Sheath / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology