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Keywords:

  • extracellular matrix;
  • signal transduction;
  • oligodendrocytes;
  • microtubules;
  • microfilaments

Abstract

Oligodendrocytes, the myelin-forming cells of the central nervous system, are in culture characterized by an elaborate process network, terminating in flat membranous sheets that are rich in myelin-specific proteins and lipids, and spirally wrap axons forming a compact insulating layer in vivo. By analogy with other cell types, maintenance and stability of these processes, as well as the formation of the myelin sheath, likely rely on a pronounced cytoskeleton consisting of microtubules and microfilaments. While the specialized process of wrapping and compaction forming the myelin sheath is not well understood, considerably more is known about how cytoskeletal organization is mediated by extracellular and intracellular signals and other interaction partners during oligodendrocyte differentiation and myelination. Here, we review the current state of knowledge on the role of the oligodendrocyte cytoskeleton in differentiation with an emphasis on signal transduction mechanisms and will attempt to draw out implications for its significance in myelination. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.