mTORC1 Is Essential for Early Steps during Schwann Cell Differentiation of Amniotic Fluid Stem Cells and Regulates Lipogenic Gene Expression
In developing peripheral nerves, differentiating Schwann cells sort individual axons from bundles and ensheath them to generate multiple layers of myelin. In recent years, there has been an increased understanding of the extracellular and intracellular factors that initiate and stimulate Schwann cell myelination, together with a growing appreciation of some of the signaling pathways involved. However, our knowledge of how Schwann cell growth is regulated during myelination is still incomplete. The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a core kinase in two major complexes, mTORC1 and mTORC2, that regulate cell growth and differentiation in a variety of mammalian cells. Here we show that elimination of mTOR from murine Schwann cells prevented neither radial sorting nor the initiation of myelination. However, normal postnatal growth of myelinating Schwann cells, both radially and longitudinally, was highly retarded. The myelin sheath in the mutant was much thinner than normal; nevertheless, sheath thickness relative to axon diameter (g-ratio) remained constant in both wild-type and mutant nerves from P14 to P90. Although axon diameters were normal in the mutant at the initiation of myelination, further growth as myelination proceeded was retarded, and this was associated with reduced phosphorylation of neurofilaments. Consistent with thinner axonal diameters and internodal lengths, conduction velocities in mutant quadriceps nerves were also reduced. These data establish a critical role for mTOR signaling in both the longitudinal and radial growth of the myelinating Schwann cell.