In the nervous system of vertebrates, myelination is essential for rapid and accurate impulse conduction. Myelin thickness depends on axon fiber size. We use mutant and transgenic mouse lines to show that axonal Neuregulin-1 (Nrg1) signals information about axon size to Schwann cells. Reduced Nrg1 expression causes hypomyelination and reduced nerve conduction velocity. Neuronal overexpression of Nrg1 induces hypermyelination and demonstrates that Nrg1 type III is the responsible isoform. We suggest a model by which myelin-forming Schwann cells integrate axonal Nrg1 signals as a biochemical measure of axon size.
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