Spiking and nonspiking classes of oligodendrocyte precursor glia in CNS white matter

Nat Neurosci. 2008 Apr;11(4):450-6. doi: 10.1038/nn2060. Epub 2008 Mar 2.


A defining feature of glial cells has been their inability to generate action potentials. We show here that there are two distinct types of morphologically identical oligodendrocyte precursor glial cells (OPCs) in situ in rat CNS white matter. One type expresses voltage-gated sodium and potassium channels, generates action potentials when depolarized and senses its environment by receiving excitatory and inhibitory synaptic input from axons. The other type lacks action potentials and synaptic input. We found that when OPCs suffered glutamate-mediated damage, as occurs in cerebral palsy, stroke and spinal cord injury, the action potential-generating OPCs were preferentially damaged, as they expressed more glutamate receptors, and received increased spontaneous glutamatergic synaptic input in ischemia. These data challenge the idea that only neurons generate action potentials in the CNS and imply that the development of therapies for demyelinating disorders will require defining which OPC type can carry out remyelination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Antigens / metabolism
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Central Nervous System / cytology
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Glutamates / pharmacology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / metabolism*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Oligodendrocyte Transcription Factor 2
  • Oligodendroglia / classification*
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated / metabolism
  • Proteoglycans / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Glutamate / drug effects
  • Receptors, Glutamate / metabolism
  • Sodium Channels / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Antigens
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Glutamates
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Olig2 protein, mouse
  • Oligodendrocyte Transcription Factor 2
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated
  • Proteoglycans
  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Sodium Channels
  • chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan 4