Identification and quantification of nociceptive Schwann cells in mice with and without Streptozotocin-induced diabetes

Xiaoli Hu, Nitin Agarwal, Ming-Dong Zhang, Patrik Ernfors, Rohini Kuner, Jens Randel Nyengaard, Pall Karlsson*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Specialized cutaneous Schwann cells (SCs), termed nociceptive SCs, were recently discovered. Their function is not fully understood, but they are believed not only to support peripheral axons in mouse skin by forming a mesh-like neural-glio networking structure in subepidermal area, but also contributing to transduction of mechanical sensation and neuropathic pain. Diabetic neuropathy (DPN) is one of the most common complication of diabetes, however, the mechanisms behind painful and painless DPN remain unclear. Using a mouse model of DPN, we want to investigate if there are quantitative differences in nociceptive SC density between the condition of hyperglycemia-induced sensory abnormalities and control condition and at which stage in the disease the damage occurs. Here, we developed a set of counting rules for nociceptive SCs based on immunofluorescent staining, and applied the method to quantify the density of nociceptive SCs in control mice (n=10), mice with nociceptive hypersensitivity at early diabetic stage (n=5), and mice with sensory hyposensitivity at late diabetic stage (n=5) in the Streptozotocin (STZ) model of type 1 diabetes. Nociceptive SCs were identified as S100 +/Sox10 +/DAPI + cells abutting to peripheral nerves, with the somas located within 25µm depth in the subepidermal area and outside glands and large fiber bundles. Hypersensitive diabetic mice had decreased nociceptive SC density, despite having normal epidermal nerve fiber density, compared with age-matched control mice (P=0.023). In contrast, there was a reduction in intraepidermal nerve fiber density but no difference in nociceptive SC density between hyposensitive diabetic mice and the age-matched control mice. This study provides a detailed description of how to identify and quantify nociceptive SC and demonstrates that nociceptive SC density declines before nerve fiber deterioration, which supports previous observations that nociceptive SCs are critical for maintenance of cutaneous sensory nerves.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102118
JournalJournal of Chemical Neuroanatomy
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Diabetic polyneuropathy
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Intraepidermal nerve fiber
  • Nociceptive Schwann cell
  • SOX10
  • Type 1 diabetes


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