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J Neurosci Res. 2000 Feb 15;59(4):477-88.

Oligodendrocytes and the control of myelination in vivo: new insights from the rat anterior medullary velum.

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Neural Damage and Repair Group, Centre for Neuroscience, Guy's Campus, GKT School of Biomedical Sciences, King's College London, London, United Kingdom.


The rat anterior medullary velum (AMV) is representative of the brain and spinal cord, overall, and provides an almost two-dimensional preparation for investigating axon-glial interactions in vivo. Here, we review some of our findings on axon-oligodendrocyte unit relations in our adult, development, and injury paradigms: (1) adult oligodendrocytes are phenotypically heterogeneous, conforming to Del Rio Hortega's types I-IV, whereby differences in oligodendrocyte morphology, metabolism, myelin sheath radial and longitudinal dimensions, and biochemistry correlate with the diameters of axons in the unit; (2) oligodendrocytes derive from a common premyelinating oligodendrocyte phenotype, and divergence of types I-IV is related to the age they emerge and the presumptive diameter of axons in the unit; (3) during myelination, axon-oligodendrocyte units progress through a sequence of maturation phases, related to axon contact, ensheathment, establishment of internodal myelin sheaths, and finally the radial growth and compaction of the myelin sheath; (4) we provide direct in vivo evidence that platelet-derived growth factor-AA (PDGF-AA), fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2), and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) differentially regulate these events, by injecting the growth factors into the cerebrospinal fluid of neonatal rat pups; (5) in lesioned adult AMV, transected central nervous system (CNS) axons regenerate through the putatively inhibitory environment of the glial scar, but remyelination by oligodendrocytes is incomplete, indicating that axon-oligodendrocyte interactions are defective; and (6) in the adult AMV, cells expressing the NG2 chondroitin sulphate have a presumptive adult oligodendrocyte progenitor antigenic phenotype, but are highly complex cells and send processes to contact axolemma at nodes of Ranvier, suggesting they subserve a specific perinodal function. Thus, axons and oligodendrocyte lineage cells form interdependent functional units, but oligodendrocyte numbers, differentiation, phenotype divergence, and myelinogenesis are governed by axons in the units, mediated by growth factors and contact-dependent signals.

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