Axonal regulation of Schwann cell proliferation and survival and the initial events of myelination requires PI 3-kinase activity

Patrice Maurel, James L. Salzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

195 Scopus citations


In this report, we have investigated the signaling pathways that are activated by, and mediate the effects of, the neuregulins and axonal contact in Schwann cells. Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) and mitogen- activated protein kinase kinase (MAPK kinase) are strongly activated in Schwann cells by glial growth factor (GGF), a soluble neuregulin, and by contact with neurite membranes; both kinase activities are also detected in Schwann cell-DRG neuron cocultures. Inhibition of the PI 3-kinase, but not the MAP kinase, pathway reversibly inhibited Schwann cell proliferation induced by GGF and neurites. Cultured Schwann cells undergo apoptosis after serum deprivation and can be rescued by GGF or contact with neurites; these survival effects were also blocked by inhibition of PI 3-kinase. Finally, we have examined the role of these signaling pathways in Schwann cell differentiation in cocultures. At early stages of coculture, inhibition of PI 3-kinase, but not MAPK kinase, blocked Schwann cell elongation and subsequent myelination but did not affect laminin deposition. Later, after Schwann cells established a one-to-one relationship with axons, inhibition of PI 3-kinase did not block myelin formation, but the myelin sheaths that formed were shorter, and the rate of myelin protein accumulation was markedly decreased. PI 3-kinase inhibition had no observable effect on the maintenance of myelin sheaths in mature myelinated cocultures. These results indicate that activation of PI 3-kinase by axonal factors, including the neuregulins, promotes Schwann cell proliferation and survival and implicate PI 3-kinase in the early events of myelination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4635-4645
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2000
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


  • MAP kinase
  • Myelination
  • PI 3-kinase
  • Proliferation
  • Schwann cell
  • Signaling pathways
  • Survival


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