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Keywords:

  • myelination;
  • glia differentiation;
  • CNS development;
  • floor plate;
  • zebrafish

Abstract

During development, progenitors that are committed to differentiate into oligodendrocytes, the myelinating cells of the central nervous system (CNS), are generated within discrete regions of the neuroepithelium. More specifically, within the developing spinal cord and hindbrain ventrally located progenitor cells that are characterized by the expression of the transcription factor olig2 give temporally rise to first motor neurons and then oligodendrocyte progenitors. The regulation of this temporal neuron-glial switch has been found complex and little is known about the extrinsic factors regulating it. Our studies described here identified a zebrafish ortholog to mammalian atx, which displays evolutionarily conserved expression pattern characteristics. Most interestingly, atx was found to be expressed by cells of the cephalic floor plate during a time period when ventrally-derived oligodendrocyte progenitors arise in the developing hindbrain of the zebrafish. Knock-down of atx expression resulted in a delay and/or inhibition of the timely appearance of oligodendrocyte progenitors and subsequent developmental stages of the oligodendrocyte lineage. This effect of atx knock-down was not accompanied by changes in the number of olig2-positive progenitor cells, the overall morphology of the axonal network or the number of somatic abducens motor neurons. Thus, our studies identified Atx as an extrinsic factor that is likely secreted by cells from the floor plate and that is involved in regulating specifically the progression of olig2-positive progenitor cells into lineage committed oligodendrocyte progenitors. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.