Marinella Ballabio

University of Milan, Milano, Lombardy, Italy

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Publications (29)74.27 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: γ-aminobutyric acid type B (GABA-B) receptor mediates the inhibitory transmission of γ-aminobutyric acid in the mammalian nervous system, being present in neurons and also in glial cells. Recently the presence of GABA-B has been demonstrated in Schwann cells (SC) suggesting its contribution in regulating the cell fate, maturation, and plasticity. Here, we further support the functional presence of GABA-B receptor in SC plasma membrane. By confocal microscopy immunofluorescence we provide evidences that GABA-B localization on the cell elongated processes correlates with the morphological changes occurring in the differentiated SC. In vivo most of the GABA-B receptors seem to be present in non-myelinating SC, which are committed to ensheath the nociceptive fibers. Therefore, we argue that GABA-B receptors do not control exclusively the in vivo differentiation yielding the myelinating SC, but are also fundamental in regulating the SC plasticity versus the non-myelinating state. Data from the literature and our recent findings corroborate the role of the GABAergic system and GABA-B receptors in the peripheral nervous system, opening new perspectives on the mechanisms controlling the differentiation of SC.
    Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 01/2012; 6:68. · 4.47 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recent evidence shows that neurotransmitters (e.g., GABA, Ach, adenosine, glutamate) are active on Schwann cells, which form myelin sheaths in the peripheral nervous system under different pathophysiologic conditions. Glutamate, the most important excitatory neurotransmitter, has been recently involved in peripheral neuropathies, thus prevention of its toxic effect is desirable to preserve the integrity of peripheral nervous system and Schwann cells physiology. Removal of glutamate from the extracellular space is accomplished by the high affinity glutamate transporters, so we address our studies to analyze their functional presence in Schwann cells. We first demonstrate that Schwann cells express the EAAC1 transporter in the plasma membrane and in intracellular vesicular compartments of the endocytic recycling pathways. Uptake experiments confirm its presence and functional activity in Schwann cells. Secondly, we demonstrate that the EAAC1 activity can be modulated by exposure to the neurosteroid allopregnanolone 10 nM (a progesterone metabolite proved to support Schwann cells). Transporter up-regulation by allopregnanolone is rapid, does not involve protein neo-synthesis and is prevented by actin depolymerization. Allopregnanolone modulation involves GABA-A receptor and PKC activation, promotes the exocytosis of the EAAC1 transporter from intracellular stores to the Schwann cell membrane, in actin-rich cell tips, and modifies the morphology of cell processes. Finally, we provide evidence that glutamate transporters control the allopregnanolone-mediated effects on cell proliferation. Our findings are the first to demonstrate the presence of a functional glutamate uptake system, which can be dynamically modulated by allopregnanolone in Schwann cells. Glutamate transporters may represent a potential therapeutic target to control Schwann cell physiology.
    Journal of Cellular Physiology 06/2011; 227(4):1740-51. · 4.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recent evidence showed that neurotransmitters are synthesised in glial cells, such as the Schwann cells, which form myelin sheaths in the PNS. While the presence of GABA type A (GABA-A) receptors has been previously demonstrated in these cells, the evidence of GABA synthesis remained still elusive. In an attempt to demonstrate the presence of GABA in rat Schwann cells, we adopted a strategy, using several integrated neurochemical, molecular as well as immunocytochemical approaches. We first demonstrated the presence of glutamic acid decarboxylase of 67 kDa (GAD67) in Schwann cells, a crucial enzyme of the GABA synthesis mechanism. Second, we demonstrated that GABA is synthesized and localized in Schwann cells. As the third step we showed that allopregnanolone (10 nM), a potent allosteric modulator of GABA-A receptors, stimulates GABA synthesis through increased levels of GAD67 in Schwann cells. Analysis of intracellular signalling mechanisms revealed that the protein kinase A pathway, through enhanced cAMP levels and cAMP response element binding protein phosphorylation, modulates the allosteric action of allopregnanolone at the GABA-A receptor in Schwann cells. Our findings are the first to demonstrate that this GABA mechanism is active in Schwann cells thus establishing new potential therapeutic targets to control Schwann cell biology, which may prove useful in the treatment of several neurodegenerative disorders.
    Journal of Neurochemistry 11/2009; 112(4):980-90. · 3.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Emerging evidence implicates gamma-aminobutyric acid type B (GABA(B)) receptors in peripheral nervous system (PNS) functions. In order to elucidate which biochemical, morphological and functional parameters of peripheral nerve fibers depend on GABA(B) receptors we studied GABA(B1)-deficient mice, which are devoid of functional GABA(B) receptors. Here, we show that GABA(B1)-deficient mice exhibit morphological and molecular changes in peripheral myelin, including an increase in the number of irregular fibers and increases in the expression levels of the myelin proteins PMP22 and P0. Moreover, the number of small myelinated fibers and small neurons of the lumbar dorsal root ganglia is higher in GABA(B1)-deficient mice than in wild-type littermates. We further show that GABA(B1)-deficient mice exhibit gait alterations and reduced allodynia. In summary, our findings implicate GABA(B) receptors in the PNS myelination process and raise the possibility that PNS alterations contribute to the sensory phenotypes of GABA(B1)-deficient mice.
    Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience 04/2008; 37(3):599-609. · 3.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Neuroactive steroids, like progesterone (P) and its 5alpha-reduced derivatives dihydroprogesterone (DHP) and tetrahydroprogesterone (THP), are involved in the control of Schwann cell proliferation and in the myelinating program of these cells. Here, we demonstrate that in culture of rat Schwann cells, P and its derivatives also increase expression of Sox-10 and Krox-20 (i.e., two transcription factors with a key role in Schwann cell physiology and in their myelinating program). Data obtained by quantitative RT-PCR analysis show that treatment with P, DHP, or THP increases mRNA levels of Krox-20. This stimulatory effect anticipates that exerted by P and DHP on Sox-10 gene expression. Thus, although the effect on Krox-20 occurs after 1 h, that on Sox-10 reaches a peak after 2 h. A similar pattern of effect is also evident on their protein levels. As evaluated by Western blot analysis, Krox-20 is increased after 3 h of treatment with P, DHP, or THP, whereas P or DHP stimulates the expression of Sox-10 after 6 h of exposure. A computer analysis performed on rat and human promoters of these two transcription factors shows that putative P-responsive elements are present in Krox-20 but not in Sox-10. Interestingly, many putative binding sites for Krox-20 are present in the Sox-10 promoter. The observations reported here, together with the concept that P and its derivatives are able to influence directly the expression of myelin proteins, suggest that these neuroactive steroids might coordinate the Schwann cell-myelinating program utilizing different intracellular pathways.
    Journal of Molecular Neuroscience 02/2007; 31(2):149-57. · 2.89 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Data obtained in our and other laboratories have indicated that progesterone (P) and its derivatives, dihydroprogesterone (DHP) and tetrahydroprogesterone (THP), stimulate the expression of two myelin proteins of the peripheral nervous system (PNS) [i.e., glycoprotein zero (P0) and peripheral myelin protein 22 (PMP22)]. We have now considered the effects of P and its derivatives on these and other myelin proteins [i.e., myelin-associated glycoprotein (MAG) and myelin and lymphocyte protein (MAL)] in sex-specific cultures of rat Schwann cells. Gene expression of myelin proteins was assessed by RNase protection assay. Treatment with P or DHP induced a stimulatory effect on P0 mRNA levels in male but not in female Schwann cells. In contrast, treatment with THP increased gene expression of P0 exclusively in female Schwann cells. A similar sex-difference was also evident for other myelin proteins. Indeed, PMP22 expression was stimulated by treatment with P in male cultures, whereas THP induced an increase of mRNA levels in female cultures. Moreover, MAG was stimulated by THP treatment in male cultures only, whereas MAL expression was unaffected by neuroactive steroid treatment in both male and female cultures. In conclusion, the present observations indicate that the effects of neuroactive steroids on myelin proteins are sexually dimorphic. This finding might represent an important background for sex-specific therapies of acquired and inherited peripheral neuropathies.
    Journal of the Peripheral Nervous System 07/2006; 11(2):111-8. · 2.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: It is now well known that peripheral nerves are a target for the action of neuroactive steroids. This review summarizes observations obtained so far, indicating that through the interaction with classical and nonclassical steroid receptors, neuroactive steroids (e.g., progesterone, testosterone and their derivatives, estrogens, etc.) are able to influence several parameters of the peripheral nervous system, particularly its glial compartment (i.e., Schwann cells). Interestingly, some of these neuroactive steroids might be considered as promising neuroprotective agents. They are able to counteract neurodegenerative events of rat peripheral nerves occurring after experimental physical trauma, during the aging process, or in hereditary demyelinating diseases. On this basis, the hypothesis that neuroactive steroids might represent a new therapeutic strategy for peripheral neuropathy is proposed.
    Journal of Molecular Neuroscience 02/2006; 28(1):65-76. · 2.89 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the adult mammalian central nervous system (CNS), exerts its action via an interaction with specific receptors (e.g., GABAA and GABAB). These receptors are expressed not only in neurons but also on glial cells of the CNS, which might represent a target for the allosteric action of neuroactive steroids. Herein, we have demonstrated first that in the peripheral nervous system (PNS), the sciatic nerve and myelin-producing Schwann cells express both GABAA and GABAB receptors. Specific ligands, muscimol and baclofen, respectively, control Schwann-cell proliferation and expression of some specific myelin proteins (i.e., glycoprotein P0 and peripheral myelin protein 22 [PMP22]). Moreover, the progesterone (P) metabolite allopregnanolone, acting via the GABAA receptor, can influence PMP22 synthesis. In addition, we demonstrate that P, dihydroprogesterone, and allopregnanolone influence the expression of GABAB subunits in Schwann cells. The results suggest, at least in the myelinating cells of the PNS, a cross-interaction within the GABAergic receptor system, via GABAA and GABAB receptors and neuroactive steroids.
    Journal of Molecular Neuroscience 02/2006; 28(1):89-102. · 2.89 Impact Factor
  • Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology - FRONT NEUROENDOCRINOL. 01/2006; 27(1):114-115.
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    ABSTRACT: γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the adult mammalian central nervous system (CNS), exerts its action via an interaction with specific receptors (e.g., GABAA and GABAB). These receptors are expressed not only in neurons but also on glial cells of the CNS, which might represent a target for the allosteric action of neuroactive steroids. Herein, we have demonstrated first that in the peripheral nervous system (PNS), the sciatic nerve and myelin-producing Schwann cells express both GABAA and GABAB receptors. Specific ligands, muscimol and baclofen, respectively, control Schwann-cell proliferation and expression of some specific myelin proteins (i.e., glycoprotein P0 and peripheral myelin protein 22 [PMP22]). Moreover, the progesterone (P) metabolite allopregnanolone, acting via the GABAA receptor, can influence PMP22 synthesis. In addition, we demonstrate that P, dihydroprogesterone, and allopregnanolone influence the expression of GABAB subunits in Schwann cells. The results suggest, at least in the myelinating cells of the PNS, a cross-interaction within the GABAergic receptor system, via GABAA and GABAB receptors and neuroactive steroids.
    Journal of Molecular Neuroscience 01/2006; 28(1):89-102. · 2.89 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptor (PBR) is a protein predominantly located in the mitochondrial outer membrane that plays an important role in the regulation of cell survival and proliferation. Previous studies have shown an enhanced expression of PBR in the regenerating sciatic nerve, suggesting that this protein may be involved in the regenerative response. The rat sciatic nerve suffers important structural alterations with aging, including alterations in the morphology of myelin sheaths and a decrease in the number of myelinated fibers. In this study, we have assessed the effect of two PBR ligands, Ro5-4864 and PK-11195, to determine whether PBR may influence aging-associated morphological changes in the sciatic nerve. The treatment of 23-month-old, Sprague-Dawley male rats for 1 month with Ro5-4864 significantly reduced the percentage of fibers with myelin decompaction and increased the total number of myelinated fibers. In contrast, PK-11195, a PBR ligand that binds to a different site than Ro5-4864 in the PBR molecule, did not significantly affect any of the parameters analyzed. These findings support the potential role of PBR ligands to prevent aging-associated peripheral nerve degeneration.
    Mechanisms of Ageing and Development 12/2005; 126(11):1159-63. · 3.26 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Peripheral nervous system possesses both classical and non-classical steroid receptors and consequently may represent a target for the action of neuroactive steroids. The present review summarizes the state of art of this intriguing field of research reporting data which indicate that neuroactive steroids, like for instance progesterone, dihydroprogesterone, tetrahydroprogesterone, dihydrotestosterone and 3alpha-diol, stimulate the expression of two important proteins of the myelin of peripheral nerves, the glycoprotein P0 (P0) and the peripheral myelin protein 22 (PMP22). Interestingly, the mechanisms by which neuroactive steroids exert their effects involve classical steroid receptors, like for instance progesterone and androgen receptors, in case of P0 and non-classical steroid receptors, like GABA(A) receptor, in case of PMP22. Moreover, neuroactive steroids not only control the expression of these specific myelin proteins, but also influence the morphology of myelin sheaths and axons suggesting that these molecules may represent an interesting new therapeutic approach to maintain peripheral nerve integrity during neurodegenerative events.
    Brain Research Reviews 05/2005; 48(2):328-38. · 7.82 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Glycoprotein Po (Po) and peripheral myelin protein 22 (PMP22) are two proteins playing a crucial physiological role in the maintenance of the multilamellar structure of peripheral myelin. We here demonstrate that the removal of circulating androgens by orchidectomy induces a significant decrease of the synthesis of Po and PMP22 in the rat sciatic nerve. In case of Po, this effect may be counteracted by the subsequent treatment with testosterone metabolites, dihydrotestosterone or 5alpha-androstan-3alpha,17beta-diol (3alpha-diol). Experiments have been consequently performed in order to evaluate the role of androgen receptor (AR) in the control of Po synthesis. In vivo treatment with flutamide (i.e., an antagonist of AR) induces a decrease of the synthesis of this myelin protein in the sciatic nerve of intact male rats confirming a role for this steroid receptor. On the contrary, PMP22 seems not to be under the control of AR, but a role for GABAA receptor may be proposed. This concept is based on the findings that: (a) only 3alpha-diol, which is able to interact with GABAA receptor, is effective in stimulating the synthesis of PMP22 in the sciatic nerve of castrated male rats, and (b) flutamide treatment is ineffective in decreasing the protein levels in intact male rats. The observations here reported clearly show similarities and dissimilarities with the effects exerted by other members of neuroactive steroid family, like for instance progesterone derivatives, which will be discussed in text.
    Molecular Brain Research 08/2004; 126(1):67-73. · 2.00 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The location and the role of gamma-aminobutyric acid type B (GABA(B)) receptors in the central nervous system have recently received considerable attention, whilst relatively little is known regarding the peripheral nervous system. In this regard, here we demonstrate for the first time that GABA(B) receptor isoforms [i.e. GABA(B(1)) and GABA(B(2))] are specifically localized in the rat Schwann cell population of the sciatic nerve. Using the selective GABA(B) agonist [i.e. (-)-baclofen] and the antagonists (i.e. CGP 62349, CGP 56999 A, CGP 55845 A), such receptors are shown to be functionally active and negatively coupled to the adenylate cyclase system. Furthermore, exposure of cultured Schwann cells to (-)-baclofen inhibits their proliferation and reduces the synthesis of specific myelin proteins (i.e. glycoprotein Po, peripheral myelin protein 22, myelin-associated glycoprotein, connexin 32), providing evidence for a physiological role of GABA(B) receptors in the glial cells of the peripheral nervous system.
    European Journal of Neuroscience 06/2004; 19(10):2641-9. · 3.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The process of aging deeply influences morphological and functional parameters of peripheral nerves. The observations summarized here indicate that the deterioration of myelin occurring in the peripheral nerves during aging may be explained by the fall of the levels of the major peripheral myelin proteins [e.g., glycoprotein Po (Po) and peripheral myelin protein 22 (PMP22)]. Neuroactive steroids, such as progesterone (PROG), dihydroprogesterone (5alpha-DH PROG), and tetrahydroprogesterone (3alpha,5alpha-TH PROG), are able to stimulate the low expression of these two myelin proteins present in the sciatic nerve of aged male rats. Since Po and PMP22 play an important physiological role in the maintenance of the multilamellar structure of PNS myelin, we have evaluated the effect of PROG and its neuroactive derivatives, 5alpha-DH PROG and 3alpha,5alpha-TH PROG, on the morphological alterations of myelinated fibers in the sciatic nerve of 22-24-month-old male rats. Data obtained clearly indicate that neuroactive steroids are able to reduce aging-associated morphological abnormalities of myelin and aging-associated myelin fiber loss in the sciatic nerve.
    Progress in Neurobiology 10/2003; 71(1):57-66. · 9.04 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Peripheral nervous system (PNS) possess both classical (e.g. progesterone receptor, PR, androgen receptor, AR) and non-classical (e.g. GABA(A) receptor) steroid receptors and consequently may represent a target for the action of neuroactive steroids. Our data have indicated that neuroactive steroids, like for instance, progesterone, dihydroprogesterone, tetrahydroprogesterone, dihydrotestosterone and 3alpha-diol, stimulate both in vivo and in vitro (Schwann cell cultures), the expression of two important proteins of the myelin of peripheral nerves, the glycoprotein Po (Po) and the peripheral myelin protein 22 (PMP22). It is important to highlight that the mechanisms by which neuroactive steroids exert their effects on the expression of Po and PMP22 involve different kind of receptors depending on the steroid and on the myelin protein considered. In particular, at least in culture of Schwann cells, the expression of Po seems to be under the control of PR, while that of PMP22 needs the GABA(A) receptor. Because Po and PMP22 play an important physiological role for the maintenance of the multilamellar structure of the myelin of the PNS, the present observations might suggest the utilization of neuroactive steroids as new therapeutically approaches for the rebuilding of the peripheral myelin.
    The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 07/2003; 85(2-5):323-7. · 3.98 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The present article shows for the first time that two cell lines derived respectively from a rat glioma (C6 cell line) and from a human astrocytoma (1321N1 cell line) are able to convert testosterone and progesterone into their corresponding 5 alpha-reduced metabolites dihydrotestosterone and dihydroprogesterone. Moreover, both cell lines are also able to convert these metabolites further into their corresponding 3 alpha-OH derivatives, 5 alpha-androstan-3 alpha, 7 beta-diol (3 alpha-diol) and tetrahydroprogesterone. On the basis of these observations, the possibility that secretory products of normal and tumoral brain cells might be able to influence steroid metabolism occurring in the two glial cell lines previously mentioned as well as in fetal rat neurons and in neonatal rat type 1 astrocytes has been considered. To this purpose, cultures of the different cellular types have been exposed to the conditioned medium in which the other cells were grown. The results obtained indicate that: 1. Neurons are able to stimulate, in a statistically significant fashion, the formation of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), 3 alpha-diol, and tetrahydraprogesterone (THP) in C6 cells. 2. Type 1 astrocytes, on the contrary, are unable to modify steroid metabolism in C6 cells. 3. C6 cell product(s) decrease(s) the formation of DHP in type 1 astrocytes, without modifying that of DHT. 4. C6 cells do not influence the metabolism of testosterone (T) and progesterone (P) in neurons. In conclusion, the present observations show that the conditioned medium of normal neurons is able to increase the metabolism of testosterone and progesterone occurring in a tumoral glial cell line, and that the conditioned media of the two tumoral cell lines analyzed are able to decrease the conversion of P into DHP occurring in normal type 1 astrocytes. The surprising result that these conditioned media do not alter the formation of DHT is discussed. Work is presently in progress to identify the principle(s) responsible respectively for the activating and inhibiting actions here described.
    Endocrine 03/1998; 8(1):65-71. · 2.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In the brain, the 5 alpha-reductase converting testosterone (T) is present both in neurons and in glial cells, even if it prevails in neurons; the 3 alpha-hydroxysteroid-dehydrogenase (3 alpha-HSD), the enzyme converting dihydrotestosterone (DHT) into 3 alpha-diol, is particularly concentrated in type 1 astrocytes. In glial cells, since the 5 alpha-reductase is activated by a cAMP analogue, PKA seems to be involved in the control of this enzyme, postulating that nervous inputs utilizing cAMP as the second messenger might modify the activity of this enzyme in glial cells. Moreover, the results indicate that, in type 1 astrocytes, both the 5 alpha-reductase and the 3 alpha-HSD are stimulated by the co-culture with neurons and by the addition of neuron-conditioned medium, suggesting that secretory products released by neurons might intervene in the control of glial cell function.
    The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 07/1995; 53(1-6):331-6. · 3.98 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The distribution of the 5 alpha-reductase, the enzyme which converts testosterone into its 'active' metabolite dihydrotestosterone (DHT), has been studied in neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes isolated from the brain of male rats by density gradient ultracentrifugation and in neurons and glial cells grown in cultures. Purity of cellular preparations was examined by electron and light microscopy. Purified neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, obtained from the brain of adult male rats, are all able to form DHT from testosterone and consequently possess a 5 alpha-reductase activity. Among the 3 cell types studied, neurons appear to be more active than oligodendrocytes and astrocytes. Moreover, between the two population of glial cells, the oligodendrocytes seem to possess a slightly higher enzymatic activity than that present in the astrocytes. Neurons appeared more active in metabolizing testosterone than glial cells also in cell culture experiments. It is presently believed that the 5 alpha-reduction of testosterone to DHT provides one of the mechanisms through which the hormone becomes effective in the CNS. This is supported by the present findings, which indicate that neurons are the cell population in which the 5 alpha-reductase is more concentrated. However, the presence of a considerable 5 alpha-reductase activity in glial cells indicates that also non-neuronal cells might participate in androgen-mediated events occurring in the brain.
    Brain Research 06/1990; 516(2):229-36. · 2.88 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The 5 alpha-reductase, the enzyme which converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), is present in several CNS structures of the rat. Recent reports from this laboratory indicate that the subcortical white matter and the myelin possess a 5 alpha-reductase activity several times higher than that present in the cerebral cortex. Moreover, previous ontogenetic observations indicate that in all cerebral tissues examined (including the myelin) the 5 alpha-reductase has a higher activity in immature animals. This study was performed in order to verify whether the differences in the 5 alpha-reductase activity on the various brain components might be due to the presence of different concentrations of the same enzyme or to different isoenzymes. To this purpose, the kinetic properties Km and Vmax were measured in the purified myelin as well as in homogenates of the subcortical white matter and of the cerebral cortex, obtained from the brain of adult (60-90-day-old), immature (23-day-old), and aged (greater than 20-month-old) male rats. The results indicate that the enzymes present in the myelin, in the subcortical white matter and in the cerebral cortex of adult male rats possess a very similar apparent Km (1.93 +/- 0.2, 2.72 +/- 0.73 and 3.83 +/- 0.49 microM respectively). On the contrary, the Vmax values obtained in the myelin (34.40 +/- 5.54), in the white matter (19.57 +/- 2.36) and in the cerebral cortex (6.47 +/- 1.03 ng/h/mg protein) of adult animals have been found to be consistently different. Very similar Km values were found in the myelin obtained from the brain of immature and very old rats (2.14 +/- 0.11 and 3.39 +/- 0.75 microM respectively). The Vmax measured in the myelin purified from the immature rat brain (62.25 +/- 4.52) showed a value which was much higher than that found in the myelin of adult animals (34.40 +/- 5.54); a Vmax (34.31 +/- 9.41) almost identical to that of adult animals was found in the myelin prepared from the brain of aged rats.
    Journal of Steroid Biochemistry 02/1990; 35(1):97-101.