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Development. 1996 Jul;122(7):2059-69.

Oligodendrocyte progenitors are generated throughout the embryonic mouse brain, but differentiate in restricted foci.

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Brookdale Center for Molecular Biology, Mount Sinai Medical School, NY 10029, USA.


Recent evidence from studies mapping the expression of putative oligodendrocyte progenitor specific mRNAs has suggested that oligodendrocyte progenitors arise during embryogenesis, in specific foci of the neuroectoderm. In order to test this hypothesis, we have assayed different regions of the embryonic central nervous system for their ability to generate oligodendrocytes following transplantation into neonatal cerebrum. To allow identification of donor-derived oligodendrocytes in wild-type host brain, we used the MbetaP transgenic mouse, which expresses lacZ in oligodendrocytes, as donor tissue. We found that tissue fragments derived from several levels of the anterior-posterior axis of the neural tube at E14.5 and E12.5, chosen to include (hindbrain, cervical and lumbar spinal cord), or exclude (dorsal telencephalon) putative foci of oligodendrocyte progenitors, all produced oligodendrocytes following transplantation. In addition, these same regions taken from E10.5, prior to the appearance of putative oligodendrocyte progenitor markers, also all yielded oligodendrocytes on transplantation. This indicates that precursor cells that can generate oligodendrocytes are widespread throughout the neuroectoderm as early as E10.5. We have also used the oligodendrocyte lineage-specific glycolipid antibodies O4, R-mAb and O1 to identify those regions of the developing brain that first support the differentiation of oligodendrocytes from their progenitor cells. We found that the first oligodendrocytes arise in prenatal brain at E14.5, in a restricted zone adjacent to the midline of the medulla. These cells are mitotically inactive, differentiated oligodendrocytes and, using light and electron microscopy, we show that they become functional, myelin-bearing oligodendrocytes. We have mapped the subsequent appearance of differentiated oligodendrocytes in the prenatal brain and show that they appear in a restricted, tract-specific manner. Our results suggest that oligodendrocytes are generated from neuroectodermal cells positioned throughout the rostrocaudal axis of the neural tube, rather than at restricted locations of the neuroectoderm. By contrast, the differentiation of such cells into oligodendrocytes does occur in a restricted manner, consistent with local regulation of oligodendrocyte progenitor differentiation.

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