One of the more surprising recent discoveries in glial biology has been that oligodendrocytes (OLs) originate from very restricted regions of the embryonic neural tube. This was surprising because myelinating OLs are widespread in the mature central nervous system, so there was no reason to suspect that their precursors should be restricted. What we now know about early OL development suggests that they might have as much (or more) in common with ventral neurons-specifically motor neurons (MNs)-as with other types of glia. This has implications for the way we think about glial development, function, and evolution. In this article we review the evidence for a shared MN-OL lineage and debate whether this is the only lineage that generates OLs. We decide in favour of a single embryonic lineage with regional variations along the anterior-posterior neuraxis.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.