The neurotoxicant, cuprizone, as a model to study demyelination and remyelination in the central nervous system

Brain Pathol. 2001 Jan;11(1):107-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3639.2001.tb00385.x.


Myelin of the adult CNS is vulnerable to a variety of metabolic, toxic, and autoimmune insults. That remyelination can ensue, following demyelinating insult, has been well demonstrated. Details of the process of remyelination are, however difficult to ascertain since in most experimental models of demyelination/remyelination the severity, localization of lesion site, or time course of the pathophysiology is variable from animal to animal. In contrast, an experimental model in which massive demyelination can be reproducibly induced in large areas of mouse brain is exposure to the copper chelator, cuprizone, in the diet. We review work from several laboratories over the past 3 decades, with emphasis on our own recent studies, which suggest an overall picture of cellular events involved in demyelination/remyelination. When 8 week old C57BL/6 mice are fed 0.2% cuprizone in the diet, mature olidgodendroglia are specifically insulted (cannot fulfill the metabolic demand of support of vast amounts of myelin) and go through apoptosis. This is closely followed by recruitment of microglia and phagoctytosis of myelin. Studies of myelin gene expression, coordinated with morphological studies, indicate that even in the face of continued metabolic challenge, oligodendroglial progenitor cells proliferate and invade demyelinated areas. If the cuprizone challenge is terminated, an almost complete remyelination takes place in a matter of weeks. Communication between different cell types by soluble factors may be inferred. This material is presented in the context of a model compatible with present data -- and which can be tested more rigorously with the cuprizone model. The reproducibility of the model indicates that it may allow for testing of manipulations (e.g. available knockouts or transgenics on the common genetic background, or pharmacological treatments) which may accelerate or repress the process of demyelination and or remyelination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Chelating Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cuprizone / pharmacology*
  • Demyelinating Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microglia
  • Models, Animal*
  • Myelin Sheath
  • Oligodendroglia / physiology*


  • Chelating Agents
  • Cuprizone