Astrocytes, but not olfactory ensheathing cells or Schwann cells, promote myelination of CNS axons in vitro

A. Sorensen, K. Moffat, C. Thomson, S. C. Barnett

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79 Citations (Scopus)


We have examined the interaction between olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), Schwann cells (SC), oligodendrocytes, and CNS axons using cultures generated from embryonic rat spinal cord. Oligodendrocyte process extension and myelination in these cultures was poor if the cells were plated on OECs or SCs. Myelin internodes and nodes of Ranvier formed frequently if these cultures were plated onto monolayers of neurosphere-derived astrocytes (NsAs). In the myelinated fibers generated on NsAs, Nav channels, caspr, and neurofascin molecules were correctly assembled at the nodes of Ranvier. The density of neurites, survival, and antigenic differentiation of oligodendrocytes was similar on OEC and NsAs monolayers. However, on OEC monolayers, despite a transient increase in the number of endogenous oligodendrocytes, there was a decrease in oligodendrocyte process extension and axonal ensheathment when compared with cultures plated on NsAs monolayers. To determine if these changes were due to axonal or glial factors, spinal cord oligodendrocytes were plated onto monolayers of OECs, NsAs, and poly-L-lysine in the absence of neurons. In these cultures, process extension and myelin-like membrane formation by oligodendrocytes was improved on monolayers of OEC. This suggests that inhibition of process extension is mediated via cross-talk between OECs and neurites. In cultures containing axons plated on OEC monolayers, oligodendrocyte process formation, axonal ensheathment, and myelination occurred albeit lower if the cultures were supplemented with NsAs conditioned medium. These data suggest OECs can permit neurite extension and oligodendrocyte proliferation, but lack secreted factor(s) and possible cell-cell contact that is necessary for oligodendrocyte process extension and myelination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)750-763
Number of pages14
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Animals Astrocytes/cytology/*physiology Axons/*physiology/ultrastructure Cell Differentiation Cell Separation Cell Survival Embryo, Mammalian/physiology Female Male Microscopy, Fluorescence Myelin Sheath/*physiology Olfactory Nerve/cytology/*physiology Rats Rats, Sprague-Dawley Schwann Cells/cytology/*physiology


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