Voltage-dependent sodium (Na+) channels are highly concentrated at nodes of Ranvier in myelinated axons and play a key role in promoting rapid and efficient conduction of action potentials by saltatory conduction. The molecular mechanisms that direct their localization to the node are not well understood but are believed to involve contact-dependent signals from myelinating Schwann cells  and interactions of Na+ channels with the cytoskeletal protein, ankyrin G . Two cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) expressed at the axon surface, Nr-CAM and neurofascin, are also linked to ankyrin G and accumulate at early stages of node formation, suggesting that they mediate contact-dependent Schwann cell signals to initiate node development . To examine the potential role of Nr-CAM in this process, we treated myelinating cocultures of DRG (dorsal root ganglion) neurons and Schwann cells with an Nr-CAM-Fc (Nr-Fc) fusion protein. Nr-Fc had no effect on initial axon-Schwann cell interactions, including Schwann cell proliferation, or on the extent of myelination, but it strikingly and specifically inhibited Na+ channel and ankyrin G accumulation at the node. Nr-Fc bound directly to neurons and clustered and coprecipitated neurofascin expressed on axons. These results provide the first evidence that neurofascin plays a major role in the formation of nodes, possibly via interactions with Nr-CAM.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)