Events in degenerating cat peripheral nerve: Induction of Schwann cell S phase and its relation to nerve fibre degeneration

R. G. Pellegrino, M. J. Politis, J. M. Ritchie, P. S. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


Severance of a peripheral nerve leads to a characteristic series of events in the distal stump, including the dissolution of axons and myelin and the proliferation of Schwann cells within their basal lamina. This study examines the relationship between the spatial-temporal pattern of the induction of the Schwann cell S phase, loss of the structural and functional properties of axolemma, and the clearance of myelin debris in the cat tibial nerve. Nerve transection stimulated a monophasic increase in [3H]thymidine incorporation that peaked at 4 days post-transection throughout an 80-mm length of distal stump. Light microscope autoradiography revealed prominent incorporation into Schwann cells of myelinated fibres. Treatment of distal stumps with mitomycin C at the time of nerve transection greatly retarded thymidine incorporation and clearance of myelin debris, but not the time course of axonal degeneration, decline in the synthesis of the major myelin glycoprotein, P0, or the onset of ovoid formation. Nerve transection also greatly reduced the specific uptake of [3H]saxitoxin (STX), a ligand which binds to voltage-sensitive sodium channels. Binding in the distal stump fell precipitously to 20% of the normal at 4 days post-transection, concurrent with the peak of thymidine incorporation. This low level of binding was maintained for periods of up to 70 days, demonstrating that some STX binds to structures other than axons in denervated distal stumps. Prior treatment with mitomycin C delayed the loss of specific STX binding. In conclusion, these studies suggest that: (a) Schwann cell DNA replication- and/or mitosis regulates other events during Wallerian degeneration, including myelin degeneration, catabolism of P0 and the clearance of sodium channels from nodal axolemma; (b) the decline in P0 synthesis and/or shift to synthesis of less extensively processed P0 is independent of the induction of Schwann cell S phase; and (c) Schwann cells enveloping myelinated axons enter S phase within a 24-h period throughout the entire 80-mm length of distal stump.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-28
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neurocytology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


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