Transforming growth factor-β1 and forskolin modulate gap junctional communication and cellular phenotype of cultured Schwann cells

K. J. Chandross*, M. Chanson, D. C. Spray, J. A. Kessler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Following peripheral nerve injury, Schwann cells undergo a series of cellular alterations that are thought to assist the regenerative process. Some of these changes are stimulated by the local release of cytokines and mitogenic factors. To test the hypothesis that cytokine regulation of gap junctional communication between cells helps to coordinate Schwann cell responses, cultured rat Schwann cells, from sciatic nerve, were utilized to study phasic changes induced by transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1), a cytokine released after nerve injury, or forskolin in combination with bovine pituitary extract (F-BPE), known for its mitogenic effects in vitro. In mitotically quiescent cultures, TGFβ1 significantly decreased both electrical and dye coupling mediated by gap junctions. Single-channel analysis revealed that cultured Schwann cells expressed gap junctions with two distinct channel sizes of about 26 pS and 44 pS. TGFβ1 treatment reduced coupling due to both populations of channels. Exposure to TGFβ1 had a minimal effect on proliferation but significantly altered cellular morphology; cell bodies became flattened with multipolar processes within 72 hr. Additionally, immunolabeling for both low-affinity nerve growth factor receptor (L-NGFR) and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) were reduced, suggesting increased differentiation. In contrast, treatment with F-BPE significantly enhanced both electrical and dye coupling and stimulated Schwann cell proliferation. Additionally, cell bodies became more rounded with polarized, cytoplasmic processes contiguously aligned with adjacent cells. F-BPE reduced immunolabeling for L-NGFR but increased expression of both GFAP and the major peripheral myelin protein, P0. These data indicate that TGFβ1 and/or F-BPE induce phenotypic changes in Schwann cells, including the Coordinated regulation of proliferation and modulation of intercellular communication via gap junctions. Such mechanisms may underlie phasic responses that orchestrate recovery from nerve injury, indicating that Schwann cell gap junctions may be critical for peripheral nerve function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)262-273
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Jan 1995


  • Schwann cell differentiation
  • Schwann cell proliferation
  • forskolin and bovine pituitary extract (F-BPE)
  • gap junctions
  • intercellular communication
  • peripheral nerve
  • transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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