Peripheral nerve development is a complex multistep process in which large myelinated and small unmyelinated fibers are formed. Schwann cells undergo controlled proliferation, differentiation and interaction with the surrounding axons in order to form mature nerves. This process, termed radial axonal sorting, is originated by axonal and extracellular matrix (ECM) signals, and mediated within Schwann cells by an increasing number of cytoplasmic molecules. In the recent years several contributions revealed how ECM and axonal signals are integrated to orchestrate Schwann cell proliferation, survival, and differentiation to successfully sort axons. Moreover, this crucial morphogenetic step is a prerequisite for myelination and for the differentiation of Remak fibers. Defects disrupting this normal Schwann cell-axon interactions would result in PNS disorders, such as peripheral neuropathies and tumors.
In the present seminar we will explore different aspects of Schwann cell-axon interactions during PNS development and repair, and will describe the molecular pathways involved.
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