A central role for the Schwann cell cytoskeleton in the process of peripheral nerve myelination has long been suggested. However, there is no genetic or biological evidence as yet to support this assumption. Here we show that dystonia musculorum (dt) mice, which carry mutations in dystonin, a cytoskeletal crosslinker protein, have hypo/amyelinated peripheral nerves. In neonatal dt mice, Schwann cells were arrested at the promyelinating stage and had multiple myelinating lips. Nerve graft experiments and primary cultures of Schwann cells demonstrated that the myelination abnormality in dt mice was autonomous to Schwann cells. In culture, dt Schwann cells showed abnormal polarization and matrix attachment, and had a disorganized cytoskeleton. Finally, we show that the dt mutation was semi-dominant, heterozygous animals presenting hypo- and hyper-myelinated peripheral nerves. Altogether, our results suggest that dt Schwann cells are deficient for basement membrane interaction and demonstrate that dystonin is an essential component of the Schwann cell cytoskeleton at the time of myelination.

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