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J Anat. 2005 Dec;207(6):707-16.

NG2-expressing cells as oligodendrocyte progenitors in the normal and demyelinated adult central nervous system.

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Department of Cellular & Molecular Neuroscience, Division of Neuroscience & Mental Health, Imperial College Faculty of Medicine, Charing Cross Hospital Campus, London, UK.


The mammalian adult central nervous system (CNS) is known to respond rapidly to demyelinating insults by regenerating oligodendrocytes for remyelination from a dividing precursor population. A widespread population of cells exists within the adult CNS that is thought to belong to the oligodendrocyte lineage, but which do not express proteins characteristic of mature myelinating oligodendrocytes, such as myelin basic protein (MBP) and 2,3-cyclic nucleotide 3-phosphodiesterase (CNP). Instead, these cells have phenotypic characteristics of a more immature stage of the oligodendrocyte lineage. They express the NG2 chondroitin sulphate proteoglycan, in addition to O4 and the platelet-derived growth factor alpha-receptor, all widely accepted as markers for oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) throughout development. However, NG2+ cells residing in the adult CNS do not resemble embryonic or neonatal NG2+ cells in terms of their morphology or proliferation characteristics, but instead represent a unique type of glial cell that has the ability to react rapidly to CNS damage. In this review, we present the evidence that adult NG2+ cells are part of the oligodendrocyte lineage and are capable of giving rise to new oligodendrocytes under both normal and demyelinating conditions. We also review the literature that these cells may have multiple functional roles within the adult CNS, notwithstanding their primary role as OPCs.

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