The Trembler-J (TrJ) mouse has a point mutation in the gene coding for peripheral myelin protein 22 (PMP22). Disturbances in PMP22 are associated with abnormal myelination in a range of inherited peripheral neuropathies both in mice and humans. PMP22 is produced mainly by Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system where it is localised to compact myelin. The function of PMP22 is unclear but its low abundance (∼5% of total myelin protein) means that it is unlikely to play a structural role. Its inclusion in a recently discovered family of proteins suggests a function in cell proliferation/differentiation and possibly in adhesion. Nerves from TrJ and the allelic Trembler (Tr) mouse are characterised by abnormally thin myelin for the size of the axon and an increased number of Schwann cells. We report ultrastructural evidence of abnormal Schwann cell-axon interactions. Schwann cell nuclei have been found adjacent to the nodes of Ranvier whereas in normal animals they are located near the centre of the internodes. In some fibres the terminal myelin loops faced outwards into the extracellular space instead of turning inwards and terminating on the axon. In severely affected nerves many axons were only partially surrounded by Schwann cell cytoplasm. All these features suggest a failure of Schwann cell–axon recognition or interaction. In addition to abnormalities related to abnormal myelination there was significant axonal loss in the dorsal roots.
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