Oligodendrocytes undergo extensive changes as they differentiate from progenitors into myelinating cells. To better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying this transformation, we performed a comparative analysis using gene expression profiling of A2B5+ oligodendrocyte progenitors and O4+ oligodendrocytes. Cells were sort-purified ex vivo from postnatal rat brain using flow cytometry. Using Affymetrix microarrays, 1707 transcripts were identified with a more than twofold increase in expression in O4+ oligodendrocytes. Many genes required for oligodendrocyte differentiation were upregulated in O4+ oligodendrocytes, including numerous genes encoding myelin proteins. Transcriptional changes included genes required for cell adhesion, actin cytoskeleton regulation, and fatty acid and cholesterol biosynthesis. At the O4+ stage, there was an increase in expression of a novel proline-rich transmembrane protein (Prmp). Localized to the plasma membrane, Prmp displays adhesive properties that may be important for linking the extracellular matrix to the actin cytoskeleton. Together, our results highlight the usefulness of this discovery-driven experimental strategy to identify genes relevant to oligodendrocyte differentiation and myelination.