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Diez-Revuelta, Natalia, Higuero, Alonso M., Velasco, Silvia, Penas-de-la-Iglesia, Maria, Gabius, Hans-Joachim and Abad-Rodiguez, Jose (2017): Neurons define non-myelinated axon segments by the regulation of galectin-4-containing axon membrane domains. In: Scientific Reports, Vol. 7, 12246 [PDF, 2MB]


The mechanism underlying selective myelination of axons versus dendrites or neuronal somata relies on the expression of somatodendritic membrane myelination inhibitors (i.e. JAM2). However, axons still present long unmyelinated segments proposed to contribute to axonal plasticity and higher order brain functions. Why these segments remain unmyelinated is still an unresolved issue. The bifunctional lectin galectin-4 (Gal-4) organizes the transport of axon glycoproteins by binding to N-acetyllactosamine (LacNac) termini of N-glycans. We have shown that Gal-4 is sorted to segmental domains (G4Ds) along the axon surface, reminiscent of these long unmyelinated axon segments in cortical neurons. We report here that oligodendrocytes (OLGs) do not deposit myelin on Gal-4 covered surfaces or myelinate axonal G4Ds. In addition, Gal-4 interacts and co-localizes in G4Ds with contactin-1, a marker of another type of non-myelinated segments, the nodes of Ranvier. Neither Gal-4 expression nor G4D dimensions are affected by myelin extracts or myelinating OLGs, but are reduced with neuron maturation. As in vitro, Gal-4 is consistently segregated from myelinated structures in the brain. Our data shape the novel concept that neurons establish axon membrane domains expressing Gal-4, the first inhibitor of myelination identified in axons, whose regulated boundaries delineate myelination-incompetent axon segments along development.

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