Demyelination can proceed independently of axonal degradation during Wallerian degeneration in wlds mice

Authors

  • Hitomi Takada,

    1. Department of Peripheral Nervous System, National Institute of Neuroscience, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, 4-1-1 Ogawa-higashi, Kodaira, Tokyo 187-8502, Japan
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  • Shigeki Yuasa,

    1. Department of Ultrastructural Research, National Institute of Neuroscience, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Tokyo, Japan
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  • Toshiyuki Araki

    1. Department of Peripheral Nervous System, National Institute of Neuroscience, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, 4-1-1 Ogawa-higashi, Kodaira, Tokyo 187-8502, Japan
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Dr T. Araki, as above.
E-mail: taraki@ncnp.go.jp

Abstract

Peripheral nerve injury induces axonal degeneration and demyelination, which are collectively referred to as Wallerian degeneration. It is generally assumed that axonal degeneration is a trigger for the subsequent demyelination processes such as myelin destruction and de-differentiation of Schwann cells, but the detailed sequence of events that occurs during this initial phase of demyelination following axonal degeneration remains unclear. Here we performed a morphological analysis of injured sciatic nerves of wlds mice, a naturally occurring mutant mouse in which Wallerian degeneration shows a significant delay. The slow Wallerian degerenation phenotype of the wlds mutant mice would enable us to dissect the events that take place during the initial phase of demyelination. Ultrastrucural analysis using electron microscopy showed that the initial process of myelin destruction was activated in injured nerves of wlds mice even though they exhibit morphologically complete protection of axons against nerve injury. We also found that some intact axons were completely demyelinated in degenerating nerves of wlds mice. Furthermore, we observed that de-differentiation of myelinating Schwann cells gradually proceeded even though the axons remained morphologically intact. These data suggest that initiation and progression of demyelination in injured peripheral nerves is, at least in part, independent of axonal degeneration.

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