A putative functional role for oligodendrocytes in mood regulation

Transl Psychiatry. 2012 May 1;2(5):e109. doi: 10.1038/tp.2012.34.


Altered glial structure and function is implicated in several major mental illnesses and increasing evidence specifically links changes in oligodendrocytes with disrupted mood regulation. Low density and reduced expression of oligodendrocyte-specific gene transcripts in postmortem human subjects points toward decreased oligodendrocyte function in most of the major mental illnesses. Similar features are observed in rodent models of stress-induced depressive-like phenotypes, such as the unpredictable chronic mild stress and chronic corticosterone exposure, suggesting an effect downstream from stress. However, whether oligodendrocyte changes are a causal component of psychiatric phenotypes is not known. Traditional views that identify oligodendrocytes solely as nonfunctional support cells are being challenged, and recent studies suggest a more dynamic role for oligodendrocytes in neuronal functioning than previously considered, with the region adjacent to the node of Ranvier (i.e., paranode) considered a critical region of glial-neuronal interaction. Here, we briefly review the current knowledge regarding oligodendrocyte disruptions in psychiatric disorders and related animal models, with a focus on major depression. We then highlight several rodent studies, which suggest that alterations in oligodendrocyte structure and function can produce behavioral changes that are informative of mood regulatory mechanisms. Together, these studies suggest a model, whereby impaired oligodendrocyte and possibly paranode structure and function can impact neural circuitry, leading to downstream effects related to emotionality in rodents, and potentially to mood regulation in human psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / physiology
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Cell Count
  • Demyelinating Diseases / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / genetics
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mice
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Oligodendroglia / physiology*
  • Ranvier's Nodes / physiology
  • Schizophrenia / genetics
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins