The myelin sheath surrounding axons is one of the most exquisite examples of a specialized cell-cell interaction in the vertebrate nervous system. Myelin is formed by glial cells called oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system and Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system. These cells associate with axons, and elaborate massive amounts of cytoplasm, ultimately wrapping axons to form the myelin sheath. While progress has been made to determine how glial cells make myelin, there is still much we do not understand.
How do glial cells transition from simple axonal ensheathment to membrane spiraling? What are the signals between glial cells and axons that regulate myelination? How is myelin maintained once it is formed? When myelin regenerates in disease or after injury, do the same developmental pathways that regulate myelination regulate remyelination? Or are there additional pathways necessary for this process, specific to adult tissue?
We use mouse and zebrafish models to better understand how myelinated axons are formed, maintained, and regenerated.