In the vertebrate nervous system, the fast conduction of action potentials is potentiated by the myelin sheath, a multi-lamellar, lipid-rich structure that also provides vital trophic and metabolic support to axons. Myelin is elaborated by the plasma membrane of specialized glial cells, oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system (CNS) and Schwann cells (SCs) in the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The diseases that result from damage to myelin or glia, including multiple sclerosis and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, underscore the importance of these cells for human health. Therefore, an understanding of glial development and myelination is crucial in addressing the etiology of demyelinating diseases and developing patient therapies. In this review, we discuss new insights into the roles of mechanotransduction and cytoskeletal rearrangements as well as activity dependent myelination and axonal maintenance by glia. Together, these discoveries advance our knowledge of myelin and glia in nervous system health and plasticity throughout life.
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