Early specification of oligodendrocytes in the chick embryonic brain

Dev Biol. 1999 Dec 1;216(1):98-113. doi: 10.1006/dbio.1999.9438.


Oligodendrocytes are the myelin-forming cells in the central nervous system of vertebrates. In the rodent embryo, these cells have been shown to emerge from restricted territories of the neuroepithelium. However, a comprehensive view of the development of oligodendroglial populations from their ventricular sources remains to be established. As a first step toward this aim, we have examined in vivo the spatiotemporal emergence of oligodendrocytes in the chick embryonic brain. We have detailed the patterns of expression of three early markers of the oligodendroglial lineage: the plp/dm-20 and PDGFRalpha transcripts and the O4-reactive antigen. During embryonic development, these molecules showed a similar segmental pattern of expression. However, plp/dm-20(+) cells were already observed, in the ventricular layer, at E2.5, i.e., 2 days before the appearance of O4(+) and PDGFRalpha(+) cells, suggesting that oligodendrocyte precursors arise nearly simultaneously with neurons. In the chick embryonic brain, the onset of expression of plp/dm-20 appears therefore to be the earliest event indicative of oligodendroglial specification and we propose, based on the expression of plp/dm-20 transcript, a ventricular map of the foci at which oligodendrocytes originate. In addition, we document the precocious segregation, from E5, of plp/dm-20(+) and PDGFRalpha(+) oligodendroglial cells in the subventricular and mantle layers of the brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / embryology*
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chick Embryo
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Myelin Proteolipid Protein / genetics
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor alpha / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Myelin Proteolipid Protein
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor alpha