CIDP – the relevance of recent advances in Schwann cell/axonal neurobiology


John D. Pollard, Nerve Research Foundation, Brain and Mind Research Institute, The University of Sydney, Level 7, 94 Mallett Street, Camperdown NSW 2050, Australia. Tel: +61 2 9351 0730; Fax: +61 2 9351 0653; E-mail:


Early pathological studies in patients with acute and chronic inflammatory demyelinating neuropathies, and the animal model experimental autoimmune neuritis (EAN) showed similarities in the process of demyelination. These studies focused on compact myelin proteins and peptides as targets of immune attack in Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (CIDP), and EAN. However, serological studies in patients with subsets of GBS highlighted the importance of gangliosides – glycolipids enriched in non-compact Schwann cell regions and the node, paranodal, and internodal axolemma. In the acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN) rabbit model, antibodies to the ganglioside GM1 bind in the nodal region, impair Na channel clustering and disturb Schwann cell/axon organisation. Schwann cell neurobiological studies now highlight the importance of adhesion molecules, including neurofascins, gliomedin, contactins, and NrCAM to Schwann cell/axon integrity. Changes to nodal fine structure by immune responses against such molecules may provide a mechanism for reversible conduction failure or block. Recovery of patients with CIDP or multifocal motor neuropathy (MMN) following treatment may sometimes be better explained by reversal of conduction failure than remyelination or regeneration. This review considers the importance of the intricate molecular arrangements at the nodal and paranodal regions in inflammatory neuropathies such as CIDP. Early images of compact myelin stripping and phagocytosis, may have diverted the research focus away from these vital non-compact myelin Schwann cell areas.