Myelin protein zero (P0), a type I transmembrane protein, is the most abundant protein in peripheral nervous system (PNS) myelin-the lipid-rich, periodic structure of membrane pairs that concentrically encloses long axonal segments. Schwann cells, the myelinating glia of the PNS, express P0 throughout their development until the formation of mature myelin. In the intramyelinic compartment, the immunoglobulin-like domain of P0 bridges apposing membranes via homophilic adhesion, forming, as revealed by electron microscopy, the electron-dense, double "intraperiod line" that is split by a narrow, electron-lucent space corresponding to the extracellular space between membrane pairs. The C-terminal tail of P0 adheres apposing membranes together in the narrow cytoplasmic compartment of compact myelin, much like myelin basic protein (MBP). In mouse models, the absence of P0, unlike that of MBP or P2, severely disturbs myelination. Therefore, P0 is the executive molecule of PNS myelin maturation. How and when P0 is trafficked and modified to enable myelin compaction, and how mutations that give rise to incurable peripheral neuropathies alter the function of P0, are currently open questions. The potential mechanisms of P0 function in myelination are discussed, providing a foundation for the understanding of mature myelin development and how it derails in peripheral neuropathies.
Keywords: development; myelin; myelination; peripheral neuropathies; protein folding; protein-membrane interaction; protein-protein interaction; transmembrane protein.