7 August 2000
Two major isoforms of the cell adhesion molecule neurofascin NF186 and NF155 are expressed in the central nervous system (CNS). We have investigated their roles in the assembly of the node of Ranvier and show that they are targeted to distinct domains at the node. At the onset of myelination, NF186 is restricted to neurons, whereas NF155 localizes to oligodendrocytes, the myelin-forming glia of the CNS. Coincident with axon ensheathment, NF155 clusters at the paranodal regions of the myelin sheath where it localizes in apposition to the axonal adhesion molecule paranodin/contactin-associated protein (Caspr1), which is a constituent of the septate junction-like axo-glial adhesion zone. Immunoelectron microscopy confirmed that neurofascin is a glial component of the paranodal axo-glial junction. Concentration of NF155 with Caspr1 at the paranodal junctions of peripheral nerves is also a feature of Schwann cells. In Shiverer mutant mice, which assemble neither compact CNS myelin nor normal paranodes, NF155 (though largely retained at the cell body) is also distributed at ectopic sites along axons, where it colocalizes with Caspr1. Hence, NF155 is the first glial cell adhesion molecule to be identified in the paranodal axo-glial junction, where it likely interacts with axonal proteins in close association with Caspr1.