Peripheral nerves are organized into discrete cellular compartments. Axons, Schwann cells (SCs), and endoneurial fibroblasts (EFs) reside within the endoneurium and are surrounded by the perineurium - a cellular sheath comprised of layers of perineurial glia (PNG). SC secretion of Desert Hedgehog (Dhh) regulates this organization. In Dhh nulls, the perineurium is deficient and the endoneurium is subdivided into small compartments termed minifascicles. Human Dhh mutations cause a peripheral neuropathy with similar defects. Here we examine the role of Gli1, a canonical transcriptional effector of hedgehog signaling, in regulating peripheral nerve organization. We identify PNG, EFs, and pericytes as Gli1-expressing cells by genetic fate mapping. Although expression of Dhh by SCs and Gli1 in target cells is coordinately regulated with myelination, Gli1 expression unexpectedly persists in Dhh null EFs. Thus, Gli1 is expressed in EFs non-canonically i.e., independent of hedgehog signaling. Gli1 and Dhh also have non-redundant activities. In contrast to Dhh nulls, Gli1 nulls have a normal perineurium. Like Dhh nulls, Gli1 nulls form minifascicles, which we show likely arise from EFs. Thus, Dhh and Gli1 are independent signals: Gli1 is dispensable for perineurial development but functions cooperatively with Dhh to drive normal endoneurial development. During development, Gli1 also regulates endoneurial extracellular matrix production, nerve vascular organization, and has modest, non-autonomous effects on SC sorting and myelination of axons. Finally, in adult nerves, induced deletion of Gli1 is sufficient to drive minifascicle formation. Thus, Gli1 regulates the development and is required to maintain the endoneurial architecture of peripheral nerves.
Peripheral nerves are organized into distinct cellular/ECM compartments: the epineurium, perineurium and endoneurium. This organization, with its associated cellular constituents, are critical for the structural and metabolic support of nerves and their response to injury. Here, we show Gli1 - a transcription factor normally expressed downstream of hedgehog signaling - is required for the proper organization of the endoneurium but not the perineurium. Unexpectedly, Gli1 expression by endoneurial cells is independent of, and functions non-redundantly with, Schwann Cell-derived Desert Hedgehog in regulating peripheral nerve architecture. These results further delineate how peripheral nerves acquire their distinctive organization during normal development and highlight mechanisms that may regulate their reorganization in pathologic settings including peripheral neuropathies and nerve injury.