Anatomy and Neuroscience - Theses

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    The role of the TAM receptors in CNS myelination and demyelination
    Akkermann, Rainer ( 2015)
    Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune demyelinating disease of the central nervous system (CNS). The TAM family of receptor-tyrosine kinases, comprising Tyro3, Axl and Mertk, is widely expressed in the CNS and has been shown to be critical in the outcome of both toxin-induced, as well as inflammatory demyelination. In addition, previous work has demonstrated a direct impact of Gas6-mediated TAM signalling in the regulation of myelination. However, our understanding of the contributions of each individual receptor in these processes remains poor. In order to potentially utilise TAM receptor functions in the development of new therapeutics, it is of crucial importance to dissect these contributions as pan activation of all three receptors may have undesired off-target effects. The aim of this thesis was therefore to provide further insight into which TAM receptor transduces the pro-myelinating effects of Gas6 and which receptors may be important in limiting demyelination. Using electron microscopy, I found that while deletion of Gas6 only results in a mild, non-statistically significant reduction in developmental myelination, Tyro3 deficiency significantly impairs initiation of this process. In vitro data suggest that Tyro3 expressed on oligodendrocytes is required for normal myelination and that this receptor is required for Gas6-mediated enhancement of myelination. Oligodendrocytes deficient in Tyro3 display a reduction in the activation of Erk1, a signalling molecule involved in the induction of myelin gene expression, suggesting that the effects of Tyro3 upon myelination may be mediated at least in part by Erk1. I also could demonstrate that Tyro3 deficiency alone is not sufficient to significantly alter cuprizone-induced demyelination. This is also true for heterozygous microglia-specific Mertk deletion, indicating that homozygous deletion may be required to unravel potential effects of this receptor in experimental demyelination. Finally, injection of Axl or Mertk activating antibodies did not alter EAE disease course which may have been due to detrimental effects probably caused by antibody-mediated hyperactivation of the immune system. In summary, the data presented in this thesis describe for the first time that Tyro3 is a regulator of CNS myelination and that this is regulated by its expression on oligodendrocytes, possibly to an extent through Erk1 activation. Neither Tyro3 deletion nor partial deletion of Mertk in microglia alone affected cuprizone-induced demyelination. Finally, my findings suggest that TAM activating antibodies may not be ideal for therapeutic activation of these receptors in inflammatory conditions.