Effects of erythropoietin on glial cell development; oligodendrocyte maturation and astrocyte proliferation

Neurosci Res. 2002 Dec;44(4):391-403. doi: 10.1016/s0168-0102(02)00161-x.


We investigated the effects of erythropoietin (Epo) in glial cell development, especially the maturation of late stage immature oligodendrocytes and the proliferation of astrocytes. Epo mRNA level in oligodendrocytes was much more prominent than those in neurons or astrocytes, which were the same as those in the young adult kidney, while Epo receptor (Epo-R) mRNA level were almost the same among neural cells, kidney and liver tissues. On immunohistochemical examination, Epo-R expression was also detected in O4-positive immature oligodendrocytes and glial fibrillary acidic protein positive astrocytes. These results suggested that types of both glial cells are responsive to Epo. The numbers of mature oligodendrocytes, which are characterized by myelin basic protein and process development, were increased by treatment with recombinant human Epo (rhEpo) (0.001-0.1 U/ml). The maturation of oligodendrocytes was also enhanced by coculture with astrocytes in vitro. However, when mixed cultured cells (oligodendrocytes+astrocytes) were treated with anti-Epo antibody and/or soluble Epo-R, the differentiation of oligodendrocytes was partially inhibited. Interestingly, high dose rhEpo (1, 3, 10 U/ml) markedly enhanced the proliferation of astrocytes. These results suggested that Epo not only promotes the differentiation and/or maturation in oligodendrocytes, but also enhances the proliferation of astrocytes. It is generally accepted that astrocytes produce Epo, and therefore Epo might act on astrocytes in an autocrine manner. The astrocytes stimulated with Epo may further accelerate the maturation of oligodendrocytes. These comprehensive effects of Epo might also affect the ability of oligodendrocyte lineage cells to promote myelin repair in the normal and damaged adult central nervous system.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Antigens, Differentiation / metabolism
  • Astrocytes / cytology
  • Astrocytes / drug effects
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Central Nervous System / cytology
  • Central Nervous System / growth & development*
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Erythropoietin / genetics
  • Erythropoietin / metabolism*
  • Erythropoietin / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Oligodendroglia / cytology
  • Oligodendroglia / drug effects
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Erythropoietin / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / pharmacology


  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Erythropoietin
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • oligodendrocyte O antigen, rat
  • Erythropoietin