The myelination of axons in peripheral nerves requires precisely coordinated proliferation and differentiation of Schwann cells (SCs). We found that the activity of the mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1), a key signaling hub for the regulation of cellular growth and proliferation, is progressively extinguished as SCs differentiate during nerve development. To study the effects of different levels of sustained mTORC1 hyperactivity in the SC lineage, we disrupted negative regulators of mTORC1, including TSC2 or TSC1, in developing SCs of mutant mice. Surprisingly, the phenotypes ranged from arrested myelination in nerve development to focal hypermyelination in adulthood, depending on the level and timing of mTORC1 hyperactivity. For example, mice lacking TSC2 in developing SCs displayed hyperproliferation of undifferentiated SCs incompatible with normal myelination. However, these defects and myelination could be rescued by pharmacologicalmTORC1 inhibition. The subsequent reconstitution of SC mTORC1 hyperactivity in adult animals resulted in focal hypermyelination. Together our data suggest a model in which high mTORC1 activity promotes proliferation of immature SCs and antagonizes SC differentiation during nerve development. Down-regulation of mTORC1 activity is required for terminal SC differentiation and subsequent initiation of myelination. In distinction to this developmental role, excessive SC mTORC1 activity stimulates myelin growth, even overgrowth, in adulthood. Thus, our work delineates two distinct functions of mTORC1 in the SC lineage essential for proper nerve development and myelination. Moreover, our studies show that SCs retain their plasticity to myelinate and remodel myelin via mTORC1 throughout life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E4261-E4270
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number21
StatePublished - May 23 2017


  • Axon
  • Mammalian target of rapamycin
  • Myelination
  • Neuropathy
  • Peripheral nerve


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