Myelin Antigens and Demyelination

  • C. F. Brosnan
  • W. Cammer
  • U. Traugott
  • W. T. Norton
  • C. S. Raine
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSA, volume 142)


The myelin sheath is formed by the compaction of multiple layers of cell membrane derived from either oligodendroglial or Schwann cells. The composition of myelin differs, however, from the composition of most other cell surface membranes in the high proportion of lipid to protein. As in other cell membranes, these lipids include cholesterol, phospholipids and glycolipids but in the brain the glycolipid galactocerebroside is found only in myelin and oligodendrocytes. Galactocerebroside represents some 20% of the total dry weight of myelin, and 6% of the dry weight of the human brain. The protein content of myelin is also distinctive in that it contains not only less protein than other cell membranes but fewer types of proteins. In CNS myelin two proteins predominate: myelin basic protein and proteolipid protein, together comprising approximately 80% of the total protein (reviewed in, Morell and Norton, 1980; and Norton and Cammer, 1984). Both are thought to have structural roles. In view of its cationic properties, myelin basic protein is thought to play a role in the tight compaction of the inner membrane and, because of its solubility in organic solvents, proteolipid protein is thought to organize the lipid bilayer. Other proteins present in the sheath have enzymic activity, and glycoproteins may play an important role in axon-myelin recognition and interaction (Sternberger et al., 1979; Itoyama et al., 1980). In the peripheral nervous system, the proportion of the various lipids is similar but the protein content is different. The P0 protein accounts for 55% of the total myelin protein, the P1 protein (probably identical to MBP) is present in small amounts and the P2 protein (also a basic protein) is unique to the peripheral nervous system (reviewed by Lees and Brostoff, 1984). The complexity of the immunological responses to these antigens has recently been reviewed by Brostoff (1984). In this paper we will address the mechanism by which these responses might lead to primary demyelination in the inflammatory demyelinating diseases.


Multiple Sclerosis Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis Myelin Basic Protein Myelin Sheath Experimental Allergic Encephalomyelitis 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. F. Brosnan
    • 1
  • W. Cammer
    • 1
  • U. Traugott
    • 1
  • W. T. Norton
    • 1
  • C. S. Raine
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Pathology, Neurology and NeuroscienceAlbert Einstein College of MedicineThe BronxUSA

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