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To analyze myelin structure and the composition of myelinated tissue in the African lungfish (Protopterus dolloi), we used a combination of ultrastructural and biochemical techniques. Electron microscopy showed typical multilamellar myelin: CNS sheaths abutted one another, and PNS sheaths were separated by endoneurial collagen. The radial component, prominent in CNS myelin of higher vertebrates, was suggested by the pattern of staining but was poorly organized. The lipid and myelin protein compositions of lungfish tissues more closely resembled those of teleost than those of higher vertebrates (frog, mouse). Of particular note, for example, lungfish glycolipids lacked hydroxy fatty acids. Native myelin periodicities from unfixed nerves were in the range of those for higher vertebrates rather than for teleost fish. Lungfish PNS myelin had wider inter-membrane spaces compared with other vertebrates, and lungfish CNS myelin had spaces that were closer in value to those in mammalian than to amphibian or teleost myelins. The membrane lipid bilayer was narrower in lungfish PNS myelin compared to other vertebrates, whereas in the CNS myelin the bilayer was in the typical range. Lungfish PNS myelin showed typical compaction and swelling responses to incubation in acidic or alkaline hypotonic saline. The CNS myelin, by contrast, did not compact in acidic saline but did swell in the alkaline solution. This lability was more similar to that for the higher vertebrates than for teleost.
During development, multipotent neural precursors give rise to oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs), which migrate and divide to produce additional OPCs. Near the end of embryogenesis and during postnatal stages, many OPCs stop dividing and differentiate as myelinating oligodendrocytes, whereas others persist as nonmyelinating cells. Investigations of oligodendrocyte development in mice indicated that the Nkx2.2 transcription factor both limits the number of OPCs that are formed and subsequently promotes their differentiation, raising the possibility that Nkx2.2 plays a key role in determining myelinating versus nonmyelinating fate. We used in vivo time-lapse imaging and loss-of-function experiments in zebrafish to further explore formation and differentiation of oligodendrocyte lineage cells. Our data show that newly specified OPCs are heterogeneous with respect to gene expression and fate. Whereas some OPCs express the nkx2.2a gene and differentiate as oligodendrocytes, others that do not express nkx2.2a mostly remain as nonmyelinating OPCs. Similarly to mouse, loss of nkx2.2a function results in excess OPCs and delayed oligodendrocyte differentiation. Notably, excess OPCs are formed as a consequence of prolonged OPC production from neural precursor cells. We conclude that Nkx2.2 promotes timely specification and differentiation of myelinating oligodendrocyte lineage cells from species representing different vertebrate taxa.
Nogo-A is possibly the best characterized myelin-derived inhibitor of nerve growth in the adult central nervous system (CNS). It is a member of the ancient reticulon family of mainly endoplasmic reticulum resident proteins with representatives found throughout the eukaryotic domain. Orthologs of the nogo gene were identified in tetrapods and teleost fish but none have been detected in invertebrates. Evolution of the nogo gene has been non-homogeneous. The exon–intron arrangement is conserved from amphibians (Xenopus) to mammals, but partly deviates from that found in several teleost fish species, indicating that the recruitment of nogo exons proceeded along at least two independent lines during early vertebrate evolution. This might have far-reaching consequences. Tetrapod nogo orthologs encode two neurite growth inhibitory domains whereas in fish nogo only one of the inhibitory domains is present. These distinct paths in nogo evolution have potentially contributed to the regeneration permissive CNS in fish as opposed to the non-regenerating CNS in higher vertebrates.
The astrocytic enzyme adenosine kinase (ADK) is a key negative regulator of the brain’s endogenous anticonvulsant adenosine. Astrogliosis with concomitant upregulation of ADK is part of the epileptogenic cascade and contributes to seizure generation. To molecularly dissect the respective roles of astrogliosis and ADK-expression for seizure generation, we used a transgenic approach to uncouple ADK-expression from astrogliosis: in Adk-tg mice the endogenous Adk-gene was deleted and replaced by a ubiquitously expressed Adk-transgene with novel ectopic expression in pyramidal neurons, resulting in spontaneous seizures. Here, we followed a unique approach to selectively injure the CA3 of these Adk-tg mice. Using this strategy, we had the opportunity to study astrogliosis and epileptogenesis in the absence of the endogenous astrocytic Adk-gene. After triggering epileptogenesis we demonstrate astrogliosis without upregulation of ADK, but lack of seizures, whereas matching wild-type animals developed astrogliosis with upregulation of ADK and spontaneous recurrent seizures. By uncoupling ADK-expression from astrogliosis, we demonstrate that global expression levels of ADK rather than astrogliosis per se contribute to seizure generation.
Current concepts of invertebrate phylogeny are reviewed. Annelida and Arthropoda, previously regarded as closely related, are now placed in separate clades. Myelin, a sheath of multiple layers of membranes around nerve axons, is found in members of the Annelida, Arthropoda and Chordata. The structure, composition and function of the sheaths in Annelida and Arthropoda are examined and evidence for the separate evolutionary origins of myelin in the three clades is presented. That myelin has arisen independently at least three times, namely in Annelids, Arthropodas and Chordates, provides a remarkable example of convergent evolution.
The protein composition of myelin in the central nervous system (CNS) has changed at the evolutionary transition from fish to tetrapods, when a lipid-associated transmembrane-tetraspan (proteolipid protein, PLP) replaced an adhesion protein of the immunoglobulin superfamily (P0) as the most abundant constituent. Here, we review major steps of proteolipid evolution. Three paralog proteolipids (PLP/DM20/DMα, M6B/DMγ and the neuronal glycoprotein M6A/DMβ) exist in vertebrates from cartilaginous fish to mammals, and one (M6/CG7540) can be traced in invertebrate bilaterians including the planktonic copepod Calanus finmarchicus that possess a functional myelin equivalent. In fish, DMα and DMγ are coexpressed in oligodendrocytes but are not major myelin components. PLP emerged at the root of tetrapods by the acquisition of an enlarged cytoplasmic loop in the evolutionary older DMα/DM20. Transgenic experiments in mice suggest that this loop enhances the incorporation of PLP into myelin. The evolutionary recruitment of PLP as the major myelin protein provided oligodendrocytes with the competence to support long-term axonal integrity. We suggest that the molecular shift from P0 to PLP also correlates with the concentration of adhesive forces at the radial component, and that the new balance between membrane adhesion and dynamics was favorable for CNS myelination.
One of the special attributes of vertebrates is their myelinated nervous system. By increasing the conduction velocity of axons, myelin allows for increased body size, rapid movement and a large and complex brain. In the central nervous system (CNS), oligodendrocytes (OLs) are the myelin-forming cells. The transcription factors OLIG1 and OLIG2, master regulators of OL development, presumably also played a seminal role during the evolution of the genetic programme leading to myelination in the CNS. From the available ontogenetic and phylogenetic data we attempt to reconstruct the evolutionary events that led to the emergence of the Olig gene family and speculate about the links between Olig genes, their specific cis-regulatory elements and myelin evolution. In addition, we report a putative myelin basic protein (MBP) ancestor in the lancelet Branchiostoma floridae, which lacks compact myelin. The lancelet ‘Mbp’ gene lacks the OLIG1/2- and SOX10-binding sites that characterize vertebrate Mbp homologs, raising the possibility that insertion of cis-regulatory elements might have been involved in evolution of the myelinating programme.
All vertebrate nervous systems, except those of agnathans, make extensive use of the myelinated fiber, a structure formed by coordinated interplay between neuronal axons and glial cells. Myelinated fibers, by enhancing the speed and efficiency of nerve cell communication allowed gnathostomes to evolve extensively, forming a broad range of diverse lifestyles in most habitable environments. The axon-covering myelin sheaths are structurally and biochemically novel as they contain high portions of lipid and a few prominent low molecular weight proteins often considered unique to myelin. Here we searched genome and EST databases to identify orthologs and paralogs of the following myelin-related proteins: (1) myelin basic protein (MBP), (2) myelin protein zero (MPZ, formerly P0), (3) proteolipid protein (PLP1, formerly PLP), (4) peripheral myelin protein-2 (PMP2, formerly P2), (5) peripheral myelin protein-22 (PMP22) and (6) stathmin-1 (STMN1). Although widely distributed in gnathostome/vertebrate genomes, neither MBP nor MPZ are present in any of nine invertebrate genomes examined. PLP1, which replaced MPZ in tetrapod CNS myelin sheaths, includes a novel ‘tetrapod-specific’ exon (see also Möbius et al., 2009). Like PLP1, PMP2 first appears in tetrapods and like PLP1 its origins can be traced to invertebrate paralogs. PMP22, with origins in agnathans, and STMN1 with origins in protostomes, existed well before the evolution of gnathostomes. The coordinated appearance of MBP and MPZ with myelin sheaths and of PLP1 with tetrapod CNS myelin suggests interdependence – new proteins giving rise to novel vertebrate structures.
The evolution of a character is better appreciated if examples of convergent emergence of the same character are available for comparison. Three instances are known among invertebrates of the evolution of axonal sheaths possessing the functional properties and many of the structural properties of vertebrate myelin. Comparison of these invertebrate myelins raises the question of what structural features must a sheath possess in order to produce the two principal functional characteristics of impulse speed enhancement and energy savings. This essay reviews the features recognized by early workers as pertaining to myelin in vertebrate and invertebrate alike: osmiophilia, negative birefringence and saltatory conduction. It then examines common features revealed by the advent of electron microscopy: multiplicity of lipid membranes, condensation of those membranes, specialized marginal seals, and nodes. Next it examines the robustness of these features as essential components of a speed-enhancing sheath. Features that are not entirely essential for speed enhancement include membrane compaction, spiral wrapping of layers, glial cell involvement, non-active axonal membrane, and even nodes and perinodal sealing. This permissiveness is discussed in relation to the possible evolutionary origin of myelin.