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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Calponin is expressed by subpopulations of connective tissue cells but not olfactory ensheathing cells in the neonatal olfactory mucosa

Mercedes Tomé, Edina Siladžic, Alessandra Santos-Silva and Susan C Barnett*

Author Affiliations

Division of Clinical Neuroscience, Beatson Institute, University of Glasgow, Garscube Estate, Switchback Road, Glasgow, G61 1BD, UK

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BMC Neuroscience 2007, 8:74  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-8-74

Published: 18 September 2007



Debate has been ongoing on the relative merits of olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) and Schwann cells as candidates for transplant-mediate repair of CNS lesions. Both glial cells exhibit similar molecular and cellular properties and to date there has been no antigenic marker identified that can clearly distinguish the two cell types. This inability to distinguish between the two cells types prevents confirmation of a controversial statement that cultures of OECs are contaminated with Schwann cells. Recently, proteomic analysis of foetal OECs and adult Schwann cells identified an actin-binding protein, calponin, as a specific marker for OECs. However, at the same time a recent report suggested that adult OECs do not express calponin. It was not clear if this discrepancy was due to methodology, as cells had to be treated with proteinase K to maximize calponin staining or developmental differences with only foetal/neonatal OECs expressing calponin. For this reason we have examined calponin expression in the peripheral olfactory system of embryonic and neonatal rats in vivo and from cells in vitro to assess if calponin is expressed in a developmental manner.


In this study we show that: i) proteinase K pretreatment had no effect on calponin staining in both OECs and Schwann cells. ii) calponin immunoreactivity was not expressed by embryonic or neonatal OECs in vitro and in vivo although connective tissue from the olfactory mucosa was strongly positive in neonatal rats but not embryonic rats, iii) calponin expression in the olfactory mucosa was heterogeneous, defining subpopulations of connective tissue cells iv) using functional confrontation assays between OECs or Schwann cells with astrocytes, calponin was expressed heterogeneously by astrocytes.


It is concluded that calponin is heterogeneously expressed by neonatal mucosal connective tissue but not expressed by neonatal OECs, embryonic OECs, and neonatal Schwann cells. Furthermore, we propose that calponin is not a specific marker for OECs generated from any developmental age.