We have studied the characteristics of pH(i) regulation at different stages of rat oligodendrocyte differentiation in primary culture. pH(i) was measured at 37 degrees C using the pH-sensitive fluorescent probe BCECF. In immature oligodendrocyte progenitor (OLP), three distinct ionic mechanisms were involved in pH(i) regulation: (i) a sodium-independent Cl(-)/HCO(-)(3) exchanger, (ii) a Na(+)/H(+) exchanger and (iii) a voltage-dependent Na(+)-HCO(-)(3) cotransporter. The two latter mechanisms were also detected in more differentiated pro-oligodendrocytes and in mature oligodendrocytes whereas the Cl(-)/HCO(-)(3) exchanger was not active in these two later stages of differentiation. The presence of this Cl(-)/HCO(-)(3) exchanger (that acts as a chronic acidifying mechanism) only in immature OLP maintains in these cells a steady-state pH(i) value significantly lower than values measured in more differentiated cells. The possible involvement of this pH(i) change in triggering cell differentiation is discussed.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.