Rapid and effective neural transmission of information requires correct axonal myelination. Modifications in myelination alter axonal capacity to transmit electric impulses and enable pathological conditions. In the CNS, oligodendrocytes (OLs) myelinate axons, a complex process involving various cellular interactions. However, we know little about the mechanisms that orchestrate correct myelination. Here, we demonstrate that OLs express R-Ras1 and R-Ras2. Using female and male mutant mice to delete these proteins, we found that activation of the PI3K/Akt and Erk1/2-MAPK pathways was weaker in mice lacking one or both of these GTPases, suggesting that both proteins coordinate the activity of these two pathways. Loss of R-Ras1 and/or R-Ras2 diminishes the number of OLs in major myelinated CNS tracts and increases the proportion of immature OLs. In R-Ras1-/- and R-Ras2-/--null mice, OLs show aberrant morphologies and fail to differentiate correctly into myelin-forming phenotypes. The smaller OL population and abnormal OL maturation induce severe hypomyelination, with shorter nodes of Ranvier in R-Ras1-/- and/or R-Ras2-/- mice. These defects explain the slower conduction velocity of myelinated axons that we observed in the absence of R-Ras1 and R-Ras2. Together, these results suggest that R-Ras1 and R-Ras2 are upstream elements that regulate the survival and differentiation of progenitors into OLs through the PI3K/Akt and Erk1/2-MAPK pathways for proper myelination.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT In this study, we show that R-Ras1 and R-Ras2 play essential roles in regulating myelination in vivo and control fundamental aspects of oligodendrocyte (OL) survival and differentiation through synergistic activation of PI3K/Akt and Erk1/2-MAPK signaling. Mice lacking R-Ras1 and/or R-Ras2 show a diminished OL population with a higher proportion of immature OLs, explaining the observed hypomyelination in main CNS tracts. In vivo electrophysiology recordings demonstrate a slower conduction velocity of nerve impulses in the absence of R-Ras1 and R-Ras2. Therefore, R-Ras1 and R-Ras2 are essential for proper axonal myelination and accurate neural transmission.
Keywords: RRas; differentiation; myelin; oligodendrocyte; oligodendrocyte progenitor cell.
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