The identification of connexin32 (Cx32) in myelinating Schwann cells and the association of Cx32 mutations with peripheral neuropathies suggest a functional role for gap junction proteins in the nerve. However, after nerve crush injury, Cx32 expression dramatically decreases in Schwann cells in the degenerating region, returning to control levels at newly formed nodes of Ranvier and Schmidt-Lantermann incisures by 30 days. The present study examined increases in expression of other connexins that occur after peripheral nerve injury. A 56/58-kDa connexin46 (Cx46) protein species was detected in adult rat sciatic nerve, along with very low levels of Cx46 mRNA. However, by 3 days after crush injury, coincident with changes in Schwann cell phenotype, Cx46 mRNA rapidly increased in the degenerating regions. Additionally, the 56/58-kDa Cx46 protein species present in adult nerve decreased and a 53-kDa Cx46 species, which was also present in cultured Schwann cells, became apparent. Connexin43 (Cx43) mRNA and protein, which was localized to perineurial cells in adult nerve, dramatically increased in endoneurial fibroblasts in the crush and distal regions by 3 days, coincident with macrophage infiltration. By 12 days after injury, Cx43 decreased and was comparable to normal nerve. These results suggest that enhanced expression of Cx46 and Cx43, by nonneuronal cells, may be important for the injury and regenerative responses of peripheral nerves.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology