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J Neurosci Res. 2007 Aug 1;85(10):2080-6.

Morphometric analysis of oligodendrocytes in the adult mouse frontal cortex.

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Division of Neuroscience, Children's Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Oligodendrocytes (OLs), the myelinating cells of the central nervous system, have specialized morphologies that subserve their function. Numerous qualitative studies suggest that OLs in different brain regions can differ in their morphological characteristics, including number of branches and internodes, internode length, etc. However, progress in identifying and characterizing the diverse types of OLs and their distribution in the brain has been made difficult by several technical constraints. Here we report a new strategy to analyze OL morphology with a high degree of quantitative power and throughput. We used confocal microscopy and three-dimensional cell tracing software to study OLs in the frontal cortex of mice expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) under the control of the proteolipid protein (Plp) gene promoter. Three-dimensional reconstructions were then used to analyze and quantify cell morphology, including total process length, total process surface area, total internode length, number of primary processes, number of branch points, and number of internodes. In addition, these reconstructions were subjected to Sholl analysis, which allows for the quantitative measure of OL arbor complexity. By using this approach, we identified and characterized a previously undescribed population of small OLs with a compact but complex morphology that includes numerous branching processes and a large number of short internodes. Our data suggest that other populations of OLs remain to be identified and characterized and that the tools we have developed could help in the process of characterizing them.

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