Igor I. Adameyko
Dr. Sci. (Biol.) Associate Professor
Karolinska Institutet / Medical University of Vienna
Developmental biology, neurobiology, comparative embryology, evolution
Igor Adameyko revealed that Schwann cell precursors residing along growing peripheral nerves give rise to melanocytes (pigment cells in skin) and many other cell types in the body. These studies introduced a radically new concept for developmental biology in that defined precursor pools existing in a highly specialized niche use nerves as conduits to migrate and differentiate through temporally and spatially delineated nerve-Schwann cell communication. This concept carries significant weight since it also applies to the development of melanomas and neuroblastomas from nerve-associated cells, as well as for the genetic coding of pigmentation patterns (birthmarks) along generations. Can Schwann cells be genuinely multipotent similar to the neural crest? If so, this would transform the above discoveries into a global concept in which nerve-associated progenitors could generate various cell types during not only physiological development but also adulthood. Moreover, any such cell pool could be exploited to regenerate damaged tissues in tandem with regaining sensory nerve functions. This notion is plausible since nerves traverse the entire body from early embryonic development on and their ingrowth coincides with the expansion of cell pools in the organs they target. For decades, the prevailing concept was that the only function of these peripheral nerves is to maintain activity patterns, thus mostly sending unidirectional information. Instead, Igor proposed a non-canonical role in which nerve-associated glia generates parasympathetic neurons (Science, 2014), neuroendocrine chromaffin cells (Science, 2017) and mesenchymal stem cells in tooth (Nature, 2014) in addition to melanocytes (Cell, 2009). More than a dozen independent research groups have by now reproduced the original observations, and expanded the concept of multipotent nerve-associated Schwann cells building peripheral tissues. Thus, in a period spanning a few recent years, the concept of peripheral nerves serving as a “niche” and migration “highways” has entered mainstream research, and led to a revision of how the parasympathetic and chromaffin systems become established at precise locations and with adequate cell numbers during fetal development.
Furlan A., Dyachuk V., Kastriti M., Abdo H., Hadjab S., Chontorotzea T., Akkuratova N., Usoskin D., Kamenev D., Petersen J., Sunadome K., Memic F., Marklund U., Fried K., Topilko P., Lallemend F., Kharchenko P., Ernfors P., Adameyko I. Multipotent Peripheral Glial Cells Generate Neuroendocrine Cells of the Adrenal Medulla. Science. 2017.
Dyachuk V., Furlan A., Khatibi Shahidi M., Giovenco M., Kaukua N., Konstantinidou C., Pachnis V., Memic F., Marklund U., Muller T., Birchmeier C., Fried K., Ernfors P., Adameyko I. Parasympathetic neurons originate from nerve-associated peripheral glial progenitors. Science, 4;345(6192):82-7, 2014.
Kaukua N., Khatibi Shahidi M., Konstantinidou C., Dyachuk V., Kaucka M., Furlan A., An Z., Wang L., Hultman I., Ahrlund-Richter L., Blom H., Brismar H., Assaife Lopes N.,Pachnis V., Suter U., Clevers H., Thesleff I., Sharpe P., Ernfors P., Fried K., Adameyko I. Glial origin of mesenchymal stem cells in a tooth model system. Nature, 513 (7519), 2014.
Adameyko I., Lallemend F., Aquino J., Pereira J., Topilko P., Muller T., Fritz N., Beljajeva A., Mochii M., Liste I., Usoskin D., Suter U., Birchmeier C., Ernfors P. Schwann cell precursors from nerve innervation are a cellular origin of melanocytes in skin. Cell, 139(2):366-79, 2009.