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EMBO J. 1984 Oct;3(10):2243-7.

Purified astrocytes promote the in vitro division of a bipotential glial progenitor cell.


Optic nerves of neonatal rats contain a bipotential glial progenitor cell which can be induced by tissue culture conditions to differentiate into either an oligodendrocyte (the myelin-forming cell of the CNS) or a type 2 astrocyte (an astrocyte population found only in the myelinated tracts of the CNS). In our previous studies most oligodendrocyte-type 2 astrocyte (O-2A) progenitor cells differentiated within 3 days in vitro with relatively little division of the progenitors or their differentiated progeny. We have now found that the O-2A progenitors are stimulated to divide in culture by purified populations of type 1 astrocytes, another glial cell-type found in the rat optic nerve. This cell-cell interaction appears to be mediated by a soluble factor(s) and results in the production of large numbers of both progenitor cells and oligodendrocytes. As type 1 astrocytes are the major glial cell-type in the optic nerve when oligodendrocytes first begin to be produced in large numbers in vivo, our results suggest that this astrocyte subpopulation may play an important role in expanding the oligodendrocyte population during normal development.

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