Schwann Cells


Schwann cells are the glial cells of the peripheral nervous system. They form myelin sheaths, which are essential for saltatory conduction in normal nerves, and promote axonal regeneration in damaged nerves. Myelinating Schwann cells are selectively vulnerable to certain inherited diseases.

Keywords: myelin; neuropathy; axonal regeneration; axon–Schwann cell interactions; neuregulins; neural crest

Figure 1.

Organization of the nodal region. Schwann cell microvilli contact the axonal membrane at nodes, and paranodal loops contact the axonal membrane at the paranodes. Some of the molecules that are localized to nodes, paranodes and juxtaparanodes are indicated along with their putative molecular interactions.

Figure 2.

Schematic view of a myelinated axon. One myelinating Schwann cell has been unrolled to reveal the regions that form compact myelin, the incisures and the paranodes. Tight junctions are depicted as two continuous lines; these form a circumferential belt and are also found in the incisures. Gap junctions are depicted as ovals; these are found between the rows of adherens junctions.

Figure 3.

The localization of myelin components in the mammalian peripheral nervous system myelin sheath. Protein zero (P0), peripheral myelin protein of 22 kDa (PMP22), myelin basic protein (MBP), galactocerebroside (Gal‐C) and sulfatide are found in compact myelin; connexin 32 (Cx32), E‐cadherin and myelin‐associated glycoprotein (MAG) are found in noncompact myelin.

Figure 4.

erbB2 and erbB3 heterodimers are the neuregulin‐1 receptors in Schwann cells. Neuregulin‐1 binds to erbB3, causing erbB2 to phosphorylate both erbB3 and erbB2, and results in the activation of the Ras, phosphoinositol‐3 kinase (PI3‐K) and phospholipase Cγ (PLCγ).

Figure 5.

Summary of (SC) differentiation in developing rat sciatic nerve during embryonic (E) and postnatal (P) development. (a) Morphological aspects of differentiation; (b) Expression of transcription factors during differentiation. The thickness of the lines indicates the relative level of expression.

Figure 6.

Temporal profile of Oct‐6, Brn‐5 and Egr2/Krox‐20 expression in developing rodent peripheral nerve. The relative levels of Oct‐6 and Egr2 messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) are depicted at different days of embryonic (E) and postnatal (P) development. The effect of axotomy (at arrowheads) on the levels of Oct‐6 and Egr2 mRNA is depicted by the dashed lines.


Further Reading

Dyck PJ, Thomas PK, Griffin JW, Low PA and Poduslo JF (eds) (1993) Peripheral Neuropathy, 3rd edn. Philadephia: WB Saunders.

Jessen KR and Richardson WD (eds) (2001) Glial Cell Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lazzarini RL (ed) (2004) Myelin Biology and Disorders. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science.

Waxman SG, Kocsis JD and Stys PK (eds) (1995) The Axon. New York: Oxford University Press.

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How to Cite close
Scherer, Steven S, and Arroyo, Edgardo J(Sep 2005) Schwann Cells. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0004049]