Tuning PAK Activity to Rescue Abnormal Myelin Permeability in HNPP

Bo Hu, Sezgi Arpag, Xuebao Zhang, Wiebke Möbius, Hauke Werner, Gina Sosinsky, Mark Ellisman, Yang Zhang, Audra Hamilton, Jonathan Chernoff, Jun Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous systems extend their membranes to wrap axons concentrically and form the insulating sheath, called myelin. The spaces between layers of myelin are sealed by myelin junctions. This tight insulation enables rapid conduction of electric impulses (action potentials) through axons. Demyelination (stripping off the insulating sheath) has been widely regarded as one of the most important mechanisms altering the action potential propagation in many neurological diseases. However, the effective nerve conduction is also thought to require a proper myelin seal through myelin junctions such as tight junctions and adherens junctions. In the present study, we have demonstrated the disruption of myelin junctions in a mouse model (Pmp22+/-) of hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsies (HNPP) with heterozygous deletion of Pmp22 gene. We observed a robust increase of F-actin in Pmp22+/- nerve regions where myelin junctions were disrupted, leading to increased myelin permeability. These abnormalities were present long before segmental demyelination at the late phase of Pmp22+/- mice. Moreover, the increase of F-actin levels correlated with an enhanced activity of p21-activated kinase (PAK1), a molecule known to regulate actin polymerization. Pharmacological inhibition of PAK normalized levels of F-actin, and completely prevented the progression of the myelin junction disruption and nerve conduction failure in Pmp22+/- mice. Our findings explain how abnormal myelin permeability is caused in HNPP, leading to impaired action potential propagation in the absence of demyelination. We call it “functional demyelination”, a novel mechanism upstream to the actual stripping of myelin that is relevant to many demyelinating diseases. This observation also provides a potential therapeutic approach for HNPP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1006290
JournalPLoS Genetics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cancer Research


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