Steroid 5α-reductase type 1 immunolocalized in the rat peripheral nervous system and paraganglia

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Steroid 5α-reductase is an enzyme that converts a number of steroids with a C-4, 5 double bond and C-3 ketone to 5α- reduced metabolites. This enzyme has been suggested to play a role in brain development and myelination in the rat nervous system. In the present study, we examined the cellular and subcellular localization of the enzyme immunocytochemically in the rat peripheral nervous system and paraganglia using a polyclonal antibody against rat 5α-reductase type 1. Light and electron microscopical studies localized 5α-reductase in the Schwann cells of myelinated and unmyelinated nerve fibres, the satellite cells of the ganglia, the enteric glial cells and the supporting/sustentacular cells of the paraganglia. In the myelinated nerve fibres, immunoreactivity was observed in the outer loops, the nodes of Ranvier and the Schmidt–Lanterman incisures. Subcellularly, the immunoreactivity was localized in the cytopl asm of various glial cells. No immunoreactivity was observed in the myelin membrane, the axon or the neuronal perikaryon. These findings suggest that 5α-reductase is widely distributed in glial cells, and that, in addition to myelination, 5α-reduced steroids play a role in some glial functions in the peripheral nervous system.

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