NG2 cells differentiate into astrocytes in cerebellar slices

Mol Cell Neurosci. 2009 Nov;42(3):208-18. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2009.07.007. Epub 2009 Jul 17.


NG2-glia are an abundant population of glial cells that have been considered by many to be oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs). However, growing evidence suggests that NG2-glia may also be capable of differentiating into astrocytes and neurons under certain conditions. Here, we have examined NG2-glia in cerebellar slices, using transgenic mice in which the astroglial marker glial specific protein (GFAP) drives expression of the reporter gene enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP). Immunolabelling for NG2 shows that NG2-glia and GFAP-EGFP astroglia are separate populations in most areas of the brain, although a substantial population of NG2-glia in the pons also express the GFAP-EGFP reporter. In the cerebellum, NG2-glia did not express EGFP, either at postnatal day (P)12 or P29-30. We developed an organotypic culture of P12 cerebellar slices that maintain cytoarchitectural integrity of Purkinje neurons and Bergmann glia. In these cultures, BrdU labelling indicates that the majority of NG2-glia enter the cell cycle within 2 days in vitro (DIV), suggesting that NG2-glia undergo a 'reactive' response in cerebellar cultures. After 2 DIV NG2-glia began to express the astroglial reporter EGFP and in some cases the respective GFAP protein. However, NG2-glia did not acquire phenotypic markers of neural stem cells or neurons. The results suggest that NG2-glia are not lineage restricted OPCs and are a potential source of astrocytes in the cerebellum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology
  • Astrocytes / physiology*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebellum / cytology*
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / genetics
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neuroglia / cytology
  • Neuroglia / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins