Oligodendroglial Signal Transduction Systems Are Developmentally Regulated


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. K. D. McCarthy at Department of Pharmacology, CB #7365, FLOB Bldg., UNCCH School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7365, U.S.A.


Abstract: Studies from several laboratories indicate that oligodendroglia exhibit signal transduction systems that can be activated by classical neurotransmitters. Previous studies from this laboratory indicate that oligodendroglia express neuroligand receptors linked to the regulation of Ca2+i. Experiments presented in this article were designed to determine if developmental processes that influence the ability of oligodendroglia to respond to neuroligands with an increase in Ca2+i proceed either in vitro or in vivo. Findings support the view that developmental processes markedly affected the sensitivity of these cells to both purinergic and cholinergic receptor agonists, whereas their responsiveness to either histamine or bradykinin appeared relatively stable over time. Approximately 90 and 75% of oligodendroglia responded to ATP or carbachol, respectively, after 4 days in vitro, whereas <10% of these cells responded to either of these neuroligands after 8 days in vitro. The decrease in the percentage of oligodendroglia responding to ATP, but not carbachol, could be prevented by including dibutyryl cyclic AMP in the culture medium during the final 4 days in vitro. However, once the loss in responsiveness to ATP had occurred, it could not be reversed by exposure to dibutyryl cyclic AMP. Developmental changes in the ATP sensitivity of oligodendroglia occurred in cells expressing galactocerebroside and myelin basic protein. The neuroligand sensitivity of oligodendroglia isolated from either neonatal, 2-, 3-, or 5-week-old spinal cord was examined to determine if developmental changes in oligodendroglial Ca2+ regulation occurred in vivo. The results of these experiments indicate that the percentage of oligodendroglia responding to either ATP or carbachol markedly decreased as a function of the age of the animal used to prepare the cultures; this was not the case for the stimulation of Ca2+i by histamine. The decreased sensitivity of oligodendroglia isolated from older animals could not be reversed through the addition of dibutyryl cyclic AMP. Overall, the results of these experiments indicate that developmental processes selectively influence the sensitivity of oligodendroglia to specific neuroligands and suggest that oligodendroglial processes unrelated to myelin formation may be regulated by neuroligands in vivo.