Mitochondrial dysfunction is a common cause of peripheral neuropathies. While the role of neuron and axonal mitochondria in peripheral nerve disease is well appreciated, whether Schwann cell (SC) mitochondrial deficits contribute to peripheral neuropathies is unclear. Here, we examine how SC mitochondrial dysfunction affects axonal survival and contributes to the decline of peripheral nerve function by generating mice with SC-specific mitochondrial deficits. These mice (Tfam-SCKO s) were produced through the tissue-specific deletion of the mitochondrial transcription factor A gene (Tfam), which is essential for mitochondrial DNA (mt DNA) transcription and maintenance. Tfam-SCK Os were viable, but as they aged, they developed a progressive peripheral neuropathy characterized by nerve conduction abnormalities as well as extensive muscle denervation. Morphological examination of Tfam-SCKO nerves revealed early preferential loss of small un myelinated fibers followed by prominent demyelination and degeneration of larger-caliber axons. Tfam-SCK Os displayed sensory and motor deficits consistent with this pathology. Remarkably, the severemt DNA depletion and respiratory chain abnormalities in T fam-SCKO mice did not affect SC proliferation or survival. Mitochondrial function in S Cs is therefore essential for maintenance of axonal survival and normal peripheral nerve function, suggesting that SC mitochondrial dysfunction contributes to human peripheral neuropathies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10128-10140
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number28
StatePublished - Jul 13 2011


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