Saltatory electric conduction requires clustered voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs) at axon initial segments (AIS) and nodes of Ranvier (NR). A dense membrane undercoat is present at these sites, which is thought to be key for the focal accumulation of channels. Here, we prove that βIVΣ1 spectrin, the only βIV spectrin with an actin-binding domain, is an essential component of this coat. Specifically, βIVΣ1 coexists with βIVΣ6 at both AIS and NR, being the predominant spectrin at AIS. Removal of βIVΣ1 alone causes the disappearance of the nodal coat, an increased diameter of the NR, and the presence of dilations filled with organelles. Moreover, in myelinated cochlear afferent fibers, VGSC and ankyrin G clusters appear fragmented. These ultrastructural changes can explain the motor and auditory neuropathies present in βIVΣ1 -/- mice and point to the βIVΣ1 spectrin isoform as a master-stabilizing factor of AIS/NR membranes.
- Sciatic nerve