• Astrocyte;
  • Cell immortalization;
  • Glial cells;
  • Oligodendrocyte;
  • Shiverer mutation;
  • SV40 large T antigen

Abstract: We have conditionally immortalized oligodendrocytes isolated from normal and shiverer primary mouse brain cultures through the use of the retroviral vector ZIPSVtsA58. This vector encodes an immortalizing thermolabile simian virus 40 large T antigen (Tag) and allows for clonal selection by conferring neomycin (G418) resistance. We isolated 14 shiverer and 10 normal lines that expressed the early oligodendrocyte marker 2′,3′-cyclic nucleotide 3′-phosphodiesterase mRNA. These cell lines grew continuously at the permissive temperature (34°C) and displayed Tag nuclear immunostaining. On shifting to nonpermissive temperatures (39°C), the cells showed rapid arrested cell growth and loss of Tag staining. One line (N20.1) engineered from normal oligodendrocytes also expressed myelin basic protein (MBP) and proteolipid protein (PLP) mRNAs, genes normally expressed by mature, differentiated oligodendrocytes. No differences in any of the myelin-specific protein mRNA levels were observed in N20.1 cells grown at 39°C for >9 days compared with cells maintained at 34°C. Immunocytochemical staining revealed N20.1 cells to be positive for the oligodendrocyte surface markers—galactocerebroside, A007, and A2B5. However, MBP and PLP polypeptides could not be detected by western blot or immunocytochemical staining at either the permissive or nonpermissive temperature. Cell-free protein synthesis experiments indicated that the MBP mRNAs isolated from N20.1 cells were translatable and directed the synthesis of the 17-, 18.5-, and 21.5-kDa MBP isoforms. Analysis of the PLP/DM20 gene splice products by polymerase chain reaction indicated that the expression of DM20 mRNA predominated over that of PLP mRNA in this cell line. Because the cell line expressed the MBP and PLP genes, it represents a “mature” oligodendrocyte, but the splicing patterns of these genes indicate that it is at an early stage of “maturation’. This cell line has now been passaged >40 times with fidelity of phenotype and genotype.