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Keywords:

  • atomic force microscopy;
  • nerve topography;
  • mechanical properties;
  • Trembler-J mouse;
  • PMP-22

The accumulation of misfolded proteins is associated with various neurodegenerative conditions. Mutations in PMP-22 are associated with the human peripheral neuropathy, Charcot–Marie–Tooth Type 1A (CMT1A). PMP-22 is a short-lived 22 kDa glycoprotein, which plays a key role in the maintenance of myelin structure and compaction, highly expressed by Schwann cells. It forms aggregates when the proteasome is inhibited or the protein is mutated. This study reports the application of atomic force microscopy (AFM) as a detector of profound topographical and mechanical changes in Trembler-J mouse (CMT1A animal model). AFM images showed topographical differences in the extracellular matrix and basal lamina organization of Tr-J/+ nerve fibers. The immunocytochemical analysis indicated that PMP-22 protein is associated with type IV collagen (a basal lamina ubiquitous component) in the Tr-J/+ Schwann cell perinuclear region. Changes in mechanical properties of single myelinating Tr-J/+ nerve fibers were investigated, and alterations in cellular stiffness were found. These results might be associated with F-actin cytoskeleton organization in Tr-J/+ nerve fibers. AFM nanoscale imaging focused on topography and mechanical properties of peripheral nerve fibers might provide new insights into the study of peripheral nervous system diseases. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.