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CONNEXIN CHANNELS IN SCHWANN CELLS AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE X-LINKED FORM OF CHARCOT-MARIE-TOOTH DISEASE

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Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease comprises a group of genetically heterogeneous disorders of the peripheral nervous system. The X-linked form of Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMTX) is associated with mutations in the gene encoding the gap junction protein connexin 32 (Cx32), which is expressed in Schwann cells. Immunocytochemical evidence suggests that Cx32 is localized to the incisures of Schmidt-Lantermann and the paranodes of myelinating Schwann cells, where it appears to form reflexive gap junctions. It is currently thought that this cytoplasmic continuity provides a much shorter diffusion pathway for the transport of ions, metabolites and second messenger molecules through intracellular channels between the adaxonal and perinuclear regions of Schwann cells, across the myelin sheath. This review summarizes our current understanding of the role of connexins in Schwann cells and focuses on the lessons for channel function and disease pathophysiology derived from the functional analysis of Cx32 mutations. One of the most intriguing aspects emerging from this work is that several mutations retain functional competence, although the mutated channels exhibit altered Sating properties. This suggests that partial and/or selective disruption of the radial communication pathway formed by Cx32 is sufficient to cause a functional deficit and lead to the development of CMTX. The next challenge will be to define, at the molecular level, the sequence of events involved in the disease process. The presence of a group of functional mutations should help understand the cellular basis of CMTX, by allowing the identification of the specific molecules that need to be exchanged through Cx32 channels, but are excluded from the mutated ones.
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Document Type: Abstract

Affiliations: Brain Research Reviews 32: 192–202, 2000. Reprinted with permission from Elsevier Science BV.

Publication date: December 1, 2000

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