Akt regulates axon wrapping and myelin sheath thickness in the PNS

Enric Domènech-Estévez, Hasna Baloui, Xiaosong Meng, Yanqing Zhang, Katrin Deinhardt, Jeff L. Dupree, Steven Einheber, Roman Chrast, James L. Salzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


The signaling pathways that regulate myelination in the PNS remain poorly understood. Phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase 1A, activated in Schwann cells by neuregulin and the extracellular matrix, has an essential role in the early events of myelination. Akt/PKB, a key effector of phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase 1A, was previously implicated in CNS, but not PNS myelination. Here we demonstrate that Akt plays a crucial role in axon ensheathment and in the regulation of myelin sheath thickness in the PNS. Pharmacological inhibition of Akt in DRG neuron-Schwann cell cocultures dramatically decreased MBP and P0 levels and myelin sheath formation without affecting expression of Krox20/Egr2, a key transcriptional regulator of myelination. Conversely, expression of an activated form of Akt in purified Schwann cells increased expression of myelin proteins, but not Krox20/Egr2, and the levels of activated Rac1. Transgenic mice expressing a membrane-targeted, activated form of Akt under control of the 2′,3′-cyclic nucleotide 3′-phosphodiesterase promoter, exhibited thicker PNS and CNS myelin sheaths, and PNS myelin abnormalities, such as tomacula and myelin infoldings/outfoldings, centered around the paranodes and Schmidt Lanterman incisures. These effects were corrected by rapamycin treatment in vivo. Importantly, Akt activity in the transgenic mice did not induce myelination of nonmyelinating Schwann cells in the sympathetic trunk or Remak fibers of the dorsal roots, although, in those structures, they wrapped membranes redundantly around axons. Together, our data indicate that Akt is crucial for PNS myelination driving axonal wrapping by unmyelinated and myelinated Schwann cells and enhancing myelin protein synthesis in myelinating Schwann cells. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Although the role of the key serine/threonine kinase Akt in promoting CNS myelination has been demonstrated, its role in the PNS has not been established and remains uncertain. This work reveals that Akt controls several key steps of the PNS myelination. First, its activity promotes membrane production and axonal wrapping independent of a transcriptional effect. In myelinated axons, it also enhances myelin thickness through the mTOR pathway. Finally, sustained Akt activation in Schwann cells leads to hypermyelination/dysmyelination, mimicking some features present in neuropathies, such as hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsies or demyelinating forms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. Together, these data demonstrate the role of Akt in regulatory mechanisms underlying axonal wrapping and myelination in the PNS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4506-4521
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 20 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Akt
  • MTOR
  • Myelin
  • Schwann cell
  • Transgenic
  • Wrapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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