Much current knowledge of oligodendrocyte biology, the myelin-forming cells in the central nervous system, comes from cell culture studies mainly from postnatal rat tissue but mouse cells have been much more difficult to produce in large quantities. We have developed a high yield protocol for production of oligodendrocyte precursor cells from mouse embryonic neural progenitors grown as neurospheres. Neurospheres can be maintained and expanded for long periods in culture in the presence of epidermal growth factor (EGF). When floating neurospheres were plated on substrate-coated dishes in media supplemented with platelet derived growth factor (PDGF) and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), the spheres attached and generated migrating cells that were predominantly oligodendrocyte-lineage cells. Furthermore, cells in spheres could be shifted to the oligodendrocyte phenotype prior to plating on substrate, by incubation in suspension with PDGF/bFGF. Single cell suspensions plated after dissociation of either EGF-treated neurospheres or PDGF/bFGF-treated oligospheres had the bipolar, elongated morphology characteristic of oligodendrocyte precursor cells. mRNA and protein expression analysis of the cells generated by this method confirmed their oligodendrocyte lineage. Oligodendrocyte precursors generated by this method matured in response to ciliary neurotrophic factor treatment, producing cells with multiple processes and myelin-like membranes. The most important aspect of this protocol is the ability to generate very high numbers of relatively pure mouse oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, which can be easily transfected. These studies open up many kinds of investigations on transgenic and mutant mouse oligodendrocytes, thereby providing a valuable tool to study oligodendrocyte biology and development.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.