Physiology of Oligodendroglia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Oligodendrocytes are the myelinating cells of the CNS, producing the insulating myelin sheath that facilitates rapid electrical conduction of axonal action potentials. Oligodendrocytes arise from oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) under the control of multiple factors, including neurotransmitters and other neuron-derived factors. A significant population of OPCs persists in the adult CNS, where they are often referred to as NG2-glia, because they are identified by their expression of the NG2 chondroitin sulphate proteoglycan (CSPG4). In the adult brain, the primary function of NG2-glia is the life-long generation of oligodendrocytes to replace myelin lost through natural ‘wear and tear’ and pathology, as well as to provide new oligodendrocytes to myelinate new connections formed in response to new life experiences. NG2-glia contact synapses and respond to neurotransmitters and potassium released during neuronal transmission; to this end, NG2-glia (OPCs) express multiple neurotransmitter receptors and ion channels, with prominent roles being identified for glutamatergic signalling and potassium channels in oligodendrocyte differentiation. Myelinating oligodendrocytes also express a wide range of neurotransmitter receptors and ion channels, together with transporters and gap junctions; together, these have critical functions in cellular ion and water homeostasis, as well as metabolism, which is essential for maintaining myelin and axon integrity. An overriding theme is that oligodendrocyte function and myelination is not only essential for rapid axonal conduction, but is essential for learning and the long-term integrity of axons and neurones. Hence, myelination underpins cognitive function and the massive computing power of the human brain and myelin loss has devastating effects on CNS function. This chapter focuses on normal oligodendrocyte physiology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNeuroglia in Neurodegenerative Diseases
EditorsAlexei Verkhratsky, Margaret S. Ho, Robert Zorec, Vladimir Parpura
PublisherSpringer Singapore
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-13-9913-8
ISBN (Print)978-981-13-9912-1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
ISSN (Print)0065-2598
ISSN (Electronic)2214-8019


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