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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Aug;87(16):6368-72.

Cooperation between two growth factors promotes extended self-renewal and inhibits differentiation of oligodendrocyte-type-2 astrocyte (O-2A) progenitor cells.

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  • 1Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, London, United Kingdom.


Bipotential oligodendrocyte-type-2 astrocyte (O-2A) progenitor cells, which give rise to oligodendrocytes and type-2 astrocytes in cultures of rat optic nerve, are one of the few cell types in which most aspects of proliferation and differentiation can be manipulated in a defined in vitro environment. Previous studies have shown that O-2A progenitors exposed to platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) divide as migratory bipolar cells a limited number of times, with a cell cycle time of 18 hr, before clonally related progenitors differentiate into nondividing oligodendrocytes with a timing similar to that seen in vivo. In contrast, O-2A progenitors grown in the absence of mitogen do not divide but instead differentiate prematurely into oligodendrocytes, and progenitors exposed to appropriate inducing factors differentiate into type-2 astrocytes. We now have found that O-2A progenitors can be induced to undergo continuous self-renewal in the absence of oligodendrocytic differentiation by exposure to a combination of PDGF and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF). With the exception of the inhibition of differentiation, the O-2A progenitors exposed to PDGF and bFGF behaved similarly to those exposed to PDGF alone. In contrast, progenitors exposed to basic bFGF alone were multipolar, had a cell-cycle length of 45 hr, showed little migratory behavior, underwent premature oligodendrocytic differentiation, and did not cease division upon expression of oligodendrocyte marker antigens. Thus, inhibition of differentiation required the presence of both mitogens. Our results demonstrate that PDGF and bFGF act on O-2A progenitors as both inducers of division and as regulators of differentiation that modulate multiple aspects of O-2A progenitor development and, additionally, reveal a previously unrecognized means of regulating self-renewal processes, wherein cooperation between growth factors promotes continuous division in the absence of differentiation.

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