Heterophilic binding of L1 on unmyelinated sensory axons mediates Schwann cell adhesion and is required for axonal survival

C. A. Haney, Z. Sahenk, C. Li, V. P. Lemmon, J. Roder, B. D. Trapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

100 Scopus citations


This study investigated the function of the adhesion molecule L1 in unmyelinated fibers of the peripheral nervous system (PNS) by analysis of L1- deficient mice. We demonstrate that L1 is present on axons and Schwann cells of sensory unmyelinated fibers, but only on Schwann cells of sympathetic unmyelinated fibers. In L1-deficient sensory nerves, Schwann cells formed but failed to retain normal axonal ensheathment. L1-deficient mice had reduced sensory function and loss of unmyelinated axons, while sympathetic unmyelinated axons appeared normal. In nerve transplant studies, loss of axonal-L1, but no Schwann cell-L1, reproduced the L1-deficient phenotype. These data establish that heterophilic axonal-L1 interactions mediated adhesion between unmyelinated sensory axons and Schwann cells, stabilize the polarization of Schwann cell surface membranes, and mediate a trophic effect that assures axonal survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1173-1183
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 22 1999
Externally publishedYes



  • Axonal degeneration
  • Cell adhesion
  • Cell polarity
  • L1
  • Myelin-associated glycoprotein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology

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