White matter plasticity and enhanced remyelination in the maternal CNS

J Neurosci. 2007 Feb 21;27(8):1812-23. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4441-06.2007.


Myelination, the process in which oligodendrocytes coat CNS axons with a myelin sheath, represents an important but poorly understood form of neural plasticity that may be sexually dimorphic in the adult CNS. Remission of multiple sclerosis during pregnancy led us to hypothesize that remyelination is enhanced in the maternal brain. Here we report an increase in the generation of myelin-forming oligodendrocytes and in the number of myelinated axons in the maternal murine CNS. Remarkably, pregnant mice have an enhanced ability to remyelinate white matter lesions. The hormone prolactin regulates oligodendrocyte precursor proliferation and mimics the regenerative effects of pregnancy. This suggests that maternal white matter plasticity imparts a striking ability to repair demyelination and identifies prolactin as a potential therapeutic agent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Central Nervous System / cytology
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Myelin Sheath / physiology*
  • Nerve Regeneration / drug effects
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Oligodendroglia / cytology
  • Postpartum Period / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Animal / physiology*
  • Prolactin / metabolism
  • Prolactin / pharmacology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Stem Cells / cytology


  • Prolactin