Role of Schwann cells in retinal ganglion cell axon regeneration

Mari Dezawa, Emiko Adachi-Usami

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


It is a well known fact that the injured PNS can successfully regenerate, on the other hand, the CNS such as retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons of adult mammals is incapable of regeneration. After injury, RGC axons rapidly degenerate and most cell bodies go through the process of cell death, while glial cells at the site of injury undergo a series of responses which underlie the so-called glial scar formation. However, it has become apparent that RGCs do have an intrinsic capacity to regenerate which can be elicited by experimental replacement of the inhibitory glial environment with a permissive peripheral nerve milieu. Schwann cells are a major component of the PNS and play a role in regeneration, by producing various kinds of functional substances such as diffusible neurotrophic factors, extracellular matrix and cell adhesion molecules. RGC regeneration can be induced by cooperation of these substances. The contact of RGC axons to Schwann cells based upon the structural and molecular linkages seems to be indispensable for the stable and successful regeneration. In addition to cell adhesion molecules such as NCAM and L1, data from our laboratory show that Schwann cells utilize short focal tight junctions to provide morphological stabilization of the contact with the elongating axon, as well as a small scale of gap junctions to facilitate traffic of substances between them. Moreover, our results show that modifications of functional properties in neighboring glial cells of optic nerve are induced by transplantation of Schwann cells. Astrocytes usually considered to form a glial scar guide the regenerating axons in cooperation with Schwann cells. A decrease of the oligodendrocyte marker O4 and migration of ED-1 positive macrophages is observed within the optic nerve stump. Accordingly, RGC regeneration is not a simple phenomenon of axonal elongation on the Schwann cell membrane, but is based on direct and dynamic communication between the axon and the Schwann cell, and is also accompanied by changes and responses among the glial cell populations, which may be partly associated with the mechanisms of optic nerve regeneration. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-204
Number of pages34
JournalProgress in Retinal and Eye Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2000 Mar


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