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Development. 1995 Jun;121(6):1743-54.

Early development and dispersal of oligodendrocyte precursors in the embryonic chick spinal cord.

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Department of Neuroscience and Genetics, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland OH 44106, USA.


Oligodendrocytes, the myelinating cells of the vertebrate CNS, originally develop from cells of the neuroepithelium. Recent studies suggest that spinal cord oligodendrocyte precursors are initially localized in the region of the ventral ventricular zone and subsequently disperse throughout the spinal cord. The characteristics of these early oligodendrocyte precursors and their subsequent migration has been difficult to assay directly in the rodent spinal cord due to a lack of appropriate reagents. In the developing chick spinal cord, we show that oligodendrocyte precursors can be specifically identified by labeling with O4 monoclonal antibody. In contrast to rodent oligodendrocyte precursors, which express O4 immunoreactivity only during the later stages of maturation, in the chick O4 immunoreactivity appears very early and its expression is retained through cellular maturation. In embryos older than stage 35, O4+ cells represent the most immature, self-renewing, cells of the chick spinal cord oligodendrocyte lineage. In the intact chick spinal cord, the earliest O4+ cells are located at the ventral ventricular zone where they actually contribute to the ventricular lining of the central canal. The subsequent migration of O4+ cells into the dorsal region of the spinal cord temporally correlates with the capacity of isolated dorsal spinal cord to generate oligodendrocytes in vitro. Biochemical analysis suggests O4 labels a POA-like antigen on the surface of chick spinal cord oligodendrocyte precursors. These studies provide direct evidence for the ventral ventricular origin of spinal cord oligodendrocytes, and suggest that this focal source of oligodendrocytes is a general characteristic of vertebrate development.

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