That many cells express more than one connexin (Cx) led us to examine whether Cxs other than Cx32 are expressed in the PNS. In addition to Cx32 mRNA, Cx43 and Cx26 mRNAs were detected in rat sciatic nerve by northern blot analysis. Cx43 mRNA, but not Cx26 mRNA, was expressed in both the primary Schwann cell culture and immortalized Schwann cell line (T93). The steady-state levels of the Cx43 mRNA in the primary Schwann cell culture increased 2.0-fold with 100 microM forskolin, whereas that of Po increased 7.0-fold. Immunoreactivity to Cx43 was detected on western blots of cultured Schwann cells, T93 cells, and sciatic nerves but not on blots of PNS myelin. Immunohistochemical study using human peripheral nerves revealed that anti-Cx43 antibody stained cytoplasm around nucleus of Schwann cells but not myelin, confirming western blot results. Although Po expression was markedly decreased by crush injury of the sciatic nerves, Cx43 expression showed no apparent change. Developmental profiles showed that Cx43 expression in the sciatic nerve increased rapidly after birth, peaked at about postnatal day 6, and then decreased gradually to a low level. In adult rats, the Cx43 mRNA value was much lower than that of Cx32. These findings suggest that Cx43 is localized in Schwann cell bodies and that, compared with Po, its expression is less influenced by axonal contact and cyclic AMP levels. The high expression on postnatal day 6 indicates that Cx43 may be related to PNS myelination. Cx43 is another gap junction, but its function appears to differ from that of Cx32, as judged by the differences in their localization and developmental profiles.