The Sox10 transcription factor is required to maintain as well as specify glial identity, adding new causes for the neuropathies associated with SOX10 mutations.
Mutations in the transcription factor SOX10 cause neurocristopathies, including Waardenburg-Hirschsprung syndrome and peripheral neuropathies in humans. This is partly attributed to a requirement for Sox10 in early neural crest for survival, maintenance of pluripotency, and specification to several cell lineages, including peripheral glia. As a consequence, peripheral glia are absent in Sox10-deficient mice. Intriguingly, Sox10 continues to be expressed in these cells after specification. To analyze glial functions after specification, we specifically deleted Sox10 in immature Schwann cells by conditional mutagenesis. Mutant mice died from peripheral neuropathy before the seventh postnatal week. Nerve alterations included a thinned perineurial sheath, increased lipid and collagen deposition, and a dramatically altered cellular composition. Nerve conduction was also grossly aberrant, and neither myelinating nor nonmyelinating Schwann cells formed. Instead, axons of different sizes remained unsorted in large bundles. Schwann cells failed to develop beyond the immature stage and were unable to maintain identity. Thus, our study identifies a novel cause for peripheral neuropathies in patients with SOX10 mutations.