Assembly and maintenance of the node of Ranvier
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Myelination of axons in the central and peripheral nervous system (CNS and PNS) is required for saltatory propagation of nerve impulses. Myelinated axons are organized in functionally distinct membrane domains and the correct formation and maintenance of these domains is fundamental for the correct propagation of the electrical impulse; however, the underlying mechanisms by which these domains are specified are just starting to be unravelled. The paranodal junctions (PNJs) have been shown to contribute to node formation in the CNS and to domain maintenance both in the CNS and PNS. In this thesis I have studied the function of the linkage of the PNJs to the axonal cytoskeleton in regulating these processes by using a combination of knock out and transgenic rescue strategies. Further, I have initiated studies on the live imaging of node assembly. I have shown that the link between the PNJ and the axonal cytoskeleton is required for both the correct timing of oligodendrocyte process migration and for clustering nodal proteins at heminodes, before nodes of Ranvier are formed. Failure to correctly regulate these events during development results in shorter internodes in adults. Further, I have shown the importance of the axonal paranodal cytoskeleton in the maintenance of the node of Ranvier, both in CNS and PNS. In the absence of a link between the PNJ and the axonal cytoskeleton, paranodes disassemble, which causes disruption of both nodal and juxtaparanodal domains. Electron microscopy shows that, despite paranodal disruption, transverse bands are preserved when the anchorage of the PNJ to the axonal cytoskeleton is removed. Surprisingly, the preservation of these structures is associated with the amelioration of the neurological defects seen in mice lacking PNJs. In order to study nodal assembly, I have initiated studies on the transport of the nodal proteins Neurofascin186 and β1Nav tagged with fluorescent tags in transgenic mice, in order to analyse axonal transport during development. I have exploited the triangularis muscle explant preparation and have analysed transport of nodal proteins in young and adult mice. I have shown that transport speeds decrease with age and that the two proteins are transported at different speeds in young animals, but these differences do not persist in adults. This suggests that during myelination these proteins are transported in different vesicles and that this may change during development.