Oligodendrocyte precursor cells differentially expressing Nogo-A but not MAG are more permissive to neurite outgrowth than mature oligodendrocytes

Zhengwen Ma, Qilin Cao, Liqun Zhang, Jianguo Hu, Russell M. Howard, Peihua Lu, Scott R. Whittemore, Xiao Ming Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Grafting oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) has been used as a strategy to repair demyelination of the central nervous system (CNS). Whether OPCs can promote CNS axonal regeneration remains to be tested. If so, they should be permissive to axonal growth and may express less inhibitory molecules on their surface. Here we examined the expression of two oligodendrocyte-associated myelin inhibitors Nogo-A and myelin-associated glycoprotein (MAG) during oligodendrogliogenesis and tested their abilities to promote neurite outgrowth in vitro. Whereas the intracellular domain of Nogo-A was consistently expressed throughout oligodendrocyte differentiation, MAG was expressed only at later stages. Furthermore, the membrane-associated extracellular domain of Nogo-A was not expressed in OPCs but expressed in mature oligodendrocytes. In a dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and OPC/oligodendrocyte co-culture model, significantly greater DRG neurite outgrowth onto OPC monolayer than mature oligodendrocyte was found (1042 ± 123 vs. 717 ± 342 micrometer; p = 0.011). Moreover, DRG neurites elongated as fasciculated fiber tracts and contacted directly on OPCs (133 ± 37 cells/fascicle). In contrast, few, if any, direct contacts were found between DRG neurites and mature oligodendrocytes (5 ± 3 cells/fascicle, p < 0.001). In fact, acellular spaces were found between neurites and surrounding mature oligodendrocytes in contrast to the lack of such spaces in OPC/DRG coculture (51.1 ± 16.5 vs. 2.4 ± 3.9 micrometer; p < 0.001). Thus, OPCs expressing neither extracellular domain of Nogo-A nor MAG are significantly more permissive than mature oligodendrocytes expressing both. Grafting OPCs may thus represent a feasible strategy to foster CNS axonal regeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-196
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2009


  • MAG
  • Myelin inhibitors
  • Neurite outgrowth
  • Nogo-A
  • OPC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience

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