The formation and maintenance of myelinated nerve fibers requires the reciprocal communication between Schwann cells or oligodendrocytes with their associated axons. We are using various molecular approaches to identify the axonal signals that enable Schwann cells and oligodendrocytes to ensheath the axons they contact and to myelinate them.
Myelinating glia undergo dramatic morphological changes to generate large specialized membrane extensions that warp around the axon. These substantial morphological changes require extensive reorganization of the cytoskeleton. We are studying the role of cytoskeletal adaptor proteins which link extracellular signals to the intracellular machinary that contols myelin formation.
The physiology of myelinated nerves depends on the organization of the axonal membrane into distinct domains which contain differnt ion channels. This exquisit molecular organization of the axon is controled by the overlying Schwann cells or oligodendrocyes. We are using different molecular and genetic approaches to reveal how myelinating glia shape the membrane of the axons they wrap.