Heterogeneity of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells in adult human brain

Ann Clin Transl Neurol. 2014 Apr;1(4):272-83. doi: 10.1002/acn3.55. Epub 2014 Mar 26.


Objective: Remyelination in multiple sclerosis has been attributed to the presence of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) in brain parenchyma. However, the precise identity of these progenitors is poorly defined. Here, we characterized populations of OPCs in the adult human brain and examined their myelination capacity and profile of miRNAs. Comparisons were made with fetal OPCs and mature oligodendrocytes.

Methods: We isolated human adult and fetal (early-to-mid second trimester) OPCs from surgically resected brain tissues using O4-, A2B5-, and MOG-directed fluorescence activated cell sorting and transplanted them into dysmyelinated shiverer slices to examine their myelination capacity. We used qRT-PCR to analyze expression of selective miRNAs implicated in OPC biology.

Results: Three subsets of putative OPCs were identified in adult brains: (1) A2B5(+), (2) O4(low), and (3) A2B5(+)O4(high)MOG(+) progenitors. In comparison, fetal brains contained (1) A2B5(+), (2) O4(+), and (3) A2B5(+)O4(+) progenitors, but no MOG(+) cells. We demonstrate that like fetal OPCs, adult OPCs have the capacity to ensheathe cerebellar axons. However, adult OPCs exhibit low to undetectable expression of miRNAs that were highly expressed in O4-expressing fetal OPCs. Adult OPCs also express different miRNAs compared to mature oligodendrocytes.

Interpretation: We conclude that phenotypically distinct subsets of OPCs are present in adult human brain and these OPCs show differential miRNA expression compared to fetal OPCs and mature oligodendrocytes. These suggest that remyelination in adult brain may involve multiple populations of progenitors within the brain and that OPC differentiation in adulthood may be differentially regulated compared to development.