Schwann cells are glial cells of the peripheral nervous system. There are two known subtypes of Schwann cells: those that are myelin-forming; and those that are non-myelin-forming. In this study, we looked at the expression of cell adhesion molecules in Schwann cells to determine whether other subtypes might exist. We used immunohistological analysis of femoral nerve segments containing sensory and motor fascicles, stained with anti-HNK-1, M6749 and anti-neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) monoclonal antibodies. Anti-HNK-1 and M6749 were positive in the motor fascicle, while anti-NCAM was positive in the sensory fascicle. Immunoblot analysis with the anti-HNK-1 and M6749 antibodies showed stronger immunoreactivity in the motor fraction than in the sensory fraction in the 100 kDa band. With the anti-NCAM antibody, the 140 and 120 kDa bands were seen in the sensory fascicle fraction, but not in the motor fascicle fraction. HNK-1-positive-cells were seen in motor fascicles 7 days after transection. However, the level of immunoreactivity diminished at 14 days, and no immunoreactivity was seen at 21 days. NCAM-positive cells were not observed 3 days after transection. In development, HNK-1-positive-cells and NCAM-positive cells were seen after P-21. These results suggest that the Schwann cells from the motor and the sensory fascicles have different subtypes. The motor and sensory Schwann cells may play different roles and function in a different way during peripheral nerve regeneration. In addition, there could be more stages of Schwann cell differentiation than previously thought; it is possible that myelin-forming Schwann cells differentiate into HNK-1-positive-cells (motor myelin-forming Schwann cells) and HNK-1-negative-cells (sensory myelin-forming Schwann cells), and non-myelin-forming Schwann cells differentiate into NCAM-positive cells (sensory non-myelin-forming Schwann cells) and NCAM-negative cells (autonomic non-myelin-forming Schwann cells).
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