It is widely recognized that myelination of axons greatly enhances the speed of signal transmission. An exciting new finding is the dynamic communication between axons and their myelin-forming oligodendrocytes, including activity-dependent signalling from axon to myelin. The oligodendrocyte-myelin complex may in turn respond by providing metabolic support or alter subtle myelin properties to modulate action potential propagation. In this Opinion, we discuss what is known regarding the molecular physiology of this novel, synapse-like communication and speculate on potential roles in disease states including multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia and Alzheimer disease. An emerging appreciation of the contribution of white-matter perturbations to neurological dysfunction identifies the axo-myelinic synapse as a potential novel therapeutic target.
- Brain Diseases/physiopathology
- Central Nervous System/physiology
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Models, Neurological
- Myelin Sheath/physiology
- Synaptic Transmission/physiology