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Keywords:

  • oligodendrocytes;
  • spinal cord;
  • glial induction;
  • cell patterning

Abstract

The regionalization of oligodendrocyte potentialities and the cellular interactions leading to the expression of the oligodendrocyte phenotype have been analyzed in the embryonic chick spinal cord. Dorsal and ventral regions of the spinal cord of 4-day-old embryos (E4) were cultivated separately. Oligodendrocyte differentiation was monitored at various times after explantation, using specific oligodendrocyte markers. After 2 weeks, several hundreds of differentiated oligodendrocytes were invariably observed in ventral cultures whereas significant numbers of oligodendrocytes failed to develop in dorsal spinal cord cultures. However, the E7 dorsal spinal cord was found to produce large numbers of oligodendrocytes, indicating that the ventral restriction of oligodendrocyte potentialities is transient. To test whether ventrally derived signals might influence oligodendrocyte differentiation, E4 dorsal spinal cord microexplants were cocultivated with notochord segments or with floor plate tissue. Numerous oligodendrocytes were found in dorsal explants associated with either tissue, notochord or floor plate, but not in dorsal explants cultivated alone, indicating that cells competent to be induced along the oligodendrocyte phenotype exist in the dorsal spinal cord. These results show that oligodendrocyte differentiation potentialities are initially restricted to the ventral spinal cord and suggest that ventrally derived signals from notochord and floor plate influence oligodendrocyte differentiation in the embryonic spinal cord. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.