Neuronal activity and AMPA-type glutamate receptor activation regulates the morphological development of oligodendrocyte precursor cells

Jessica Fannon, Wysnavie Tamier, Daniel Fulton

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Myelination is initiated when oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPC) contact target axons. Neuronal activity promotes myelination through actions that may involve OPC AMPA and NMDA glutamate receptors (AMPAR, NMDAR). Therefore, activity and AMPAR / NMDAR activation are predicted to promote the morphological development of OPC. AMPAR can regulate OPC development, but this analysis was not performed in situ and the role of action potentials was not examined. Hence, the influence of activity and AMPAR on OPC morphology and development remain untested in the CNS where axon-glial interactions are preserved. Data on NMDAR are mixed with conflicting results from in vitro and in vivo work. To gain a fuller understanding of activity-dependent OPC development in situ, we explored the role of AMPAR and NMDAR in cerebellar slice cultures that permit the study of endogenous OPC development and myelination. The structure of individual OPC was resolved from cells labelled with membrane targeted GFP. Morphological data were then validated against assays of OPC development. Blocking either activity or AMPAR impaired the morphological development of OPC and promoted proliferation and differentiation. Increasing the pool of oligodendrocytes (OL) by blocking activity or AMPAR failed to promote myelination. Instead both myelination and the expression of myelin basic protein were reduced by these treatments suggesting that full differentiation to a myelinating phenotype did not occur. Blocking NMDAR left OPC proliferation, differentiation and morphology unchanged. These data indicate an important role for AMPAR but not NMDAR in mediating the activity-dependent signals that regulate OPC morphology, development and myelination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1021-1035
Number of pages13
Issue number6
Early online date4 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • Oligodendrocyte precursor cell
  • NG2 glia
  • neuronal activity
  • AMPA receptor
  • NMDA receptor
  • process morphology
  • proliferation
  • myelination
  • differentiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Neuroscience


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