The shiverer mutant mouse is an autosomal recessive mutant characterized by incomplete myelin sheath formation in the central nervous system (CNS). Such mice contain a deletion in the MBP gene, do not produce MBP proteins, and have little or no compact myelin in the CNS. To investigate the myelin sheath formation in shiverer mutant mice resulting from the absence of compact myelin, firstly we developed new methods for generating oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) from an E17 mouse brain, and examined homozygous shiverer (shi/shi) OPCs with respect to myelinogenesis in vitro. After treatment of shi/shi OPCs in vitro with PDGF or bFGF, proliferation of shi/shi OPCs was enhanced similar to that observed in wild-type OPCs. The majority of cells from the shiverer mutant mouse, however, remained as A2B5-immunoreactive early OPCs. To determine which molecular events affect the differentiation of shi/shi OPCs, we determined the signaling pathway that could be responsible for activating myelin sheath-specific proteins. We found that the developmental schedule of shi/shi OPCs in vitro was accelerated by the addition of cyclic AMP analogs, dibutyryl cAMP (dbcAMP). Treatment of shi/shi OPCs with dbcAMP had significant effect on the differentiation of OPCs that became MAG-expressing oligodendrocytes. To further determine the possible mechanism involved in the activation of MAG by dbcAMP, we examined the cAMP-dependent signaling cascades. The activation of JNK was markedly stimulated by treatment with dbcAMP, and the phosphorylation of transcription factor ATF-2 was also stimulated by dbcAMP. We demonstrated that the MAG-positive shi/shi oligodendrocytes extend processes around axons and finally covered the axon, this was clearly observed by immunocytochemistry of shi/shi oligodendrocyte-DRG cocultures. These results suggest that ATF-2 coupled to specific signal transduction cascades plays an important regulatory role in MAG expression at a specific stage of shi/shi oligodendrocyte differentiation, and OPCs grow to become myelin-forming cells with numerous cell processes that wraps around an axon to form a thin myelin sheath. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.