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Keywords:

  • HO-1;
  • immunohistochemistry;
  • myelin phagocytosis;
  • Schwann cells;
  • Wallerian degeneration

Abstract

Schwann cells participate in myelin phagocytosis in the early stage of Wallerian degeneration, prior to the recruitment of macrophages. This is the first report that Schwann cells induce heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), a 32-kDa heat shock protein, only when they have transformed into myelin-phagocytosing cells from myelinating cells (days 2–3) immediately after crush injury of rat sciatic nerves. Double immunofluorescent labelling for HO-1 and transferrin receptors revealed that HO-1-immunoreactive Schwann cells also expressed transferrin receptors suggesting activation of iron metabolism. The transient induction of HO-1 in Schwann cells may contribute to the adaptive function in an altered environment when the cells have lost contact with axons, and may play a crucial role in the ensuing regeneration.