Characterization of Schwann cells from normal nerves and from neurofibromas in the bicolour damselfish

Michael C. Schmale, Ken A. Gill, Saul M. Cacal, Sean D. Baribeau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Schwann cells are an important component of neurofibromas, one of the primary lesions encountered in neurofibromatosis type 1 in man. A central question in studies of neurofibromatosis type 1 has been whether the Schwann cells present in these tumours are intrinsically abnormal or exhibit abnormal phenotypes in response to stimuli from other cell types in these tumours. Damselfish neurofibromatosis is a naturally occurring disease in a species of marine fish, the bicolour damselfish, that is being developed as an animal model of neurofibromatosis type 1. Affected fish exhibit multiple neurofibromas and neurofibrosarcomas (malignant schwannomas). The present study compares the morphology, antigen expression and proliferative capacity in vitro of Schwann cells derived from peripheral nerves of normal, healthy fish with cells isolated from both spontaneously occurring and experimentally induced neurofibromas. Schwann cells from normal nerves expressed S100 antigens but not fibronectin or glial fibrillary acidic protein antigens and were similar in morphology and proliferative capacity to Schwann cells isolated from mammalian peripheral nerves. Tumour-derived cultures contained variable proportions (27-79%) of S100-positive cells that were identified as Schwann cells based on this feature. These tumour-derived Schwann cells exhibited a different morphology than normal Schwann cells, usually exhibited an increased reactivity to anti-S100 antibodies and were able to proliferate in vitro without added mitogens. Repeated subculturing of tumour-derived cultures led to the production of six cell lines all of which were composed exclusively of Schwann cells as indicated by S100 expression. These findings show that Schwann cells are an important component of tumours in Damselfish neurofibromatosis and that these cells are morphologically and physiologically altered in this disease. Observations of cell lines also suggest that tumour-derived Schwann cells are intrinsically abnormal and that this phenotype is not a result of stimuli from other cell types in the tumours.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)668-681
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neurocytology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


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