Oligodendrocyte precursors migrate along vasculature in the developing nervous system

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Science  22 Jan 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6271, pp. 379-384
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad3839

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Neuronal migrations follow vascular pathways

In the developing brain, various types of cells migrate from their birthplaces to their workplaces. Oligodendrocyte precursors, which develop to form the insulating sheaths that make signal transmission along an axon faster, travel farther than many. Tsai et al. now show just how the oligodendrocyte precursor cells find their way (see the Perspective by Dejana and Beltsholtz). The progenitor cells follow along the endothelial cells of the vasculature. Disrupting endothelial cells interfered with oligodendrocyte migration, leaving some sections of the brain deficient in insulators.

Science, this issue p. 379; see also p. 341


Oligodendrocytes myelinate axons in the central nervous system and develop from oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) that must first migrate extensively during brain and spinal cord development. We show that OPCs require the vasculature as a physical substrate for migration. We observed that OPCs of the embryonic mouse brain and spinal cord, as well as the human cortex, emerge from progenitor domains and associate with the abluminal endothelial surface of nearby blood vessels. Migrating OPCs crawl along and jump between vessels. OPC migration in vivo was disrupted in mice with defective vascular architecture but was normal in mice lacking pericytes. Thus, physical interactions with the vascular endothelium are required for OPC migration. We identify Wnt-Cxcr4 (chemokine receptor 4) signaling in regulation of OPC-endothelial interactions and propose that this signaling coordinates OPC migration with differentiation.

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