Oligodendrocyte precursors migrate along vasculature in the developing nervous system

Science. 2016 Jan 22;351(6271):379-84. doi: 10.1126/science.aad3839.


Oligodendrocytes myelinate axons in the central nervous system and develop from oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) that must first migrate extensively during brain and spinal cord development. We show that OPCs require the vasculature as a physical substrate for migration. We observed that OPCs of the embryonic mouse brain and spinal cord, as well as the human cortex, emerge from progenitor domains and associate with the abluminal endothelial surface of nearby blood vessels. Migrating OPCs crawl along and jump between vessels. OPC migration in vivo was disrupted in mice with defective vascular architecture but was normal in mice lacking pericytes. Thus, physical interactions with the vascular endothelium are required for OPC migration. We identify Wnt-Cxcr4 (chemokine receptor 4) signaling in regulation of OPC-endothelial interactions and propose that this signaling coordinates OPC migration with differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Vessels / cytology
  • Blood Vessels / embryology
  • Cell Movement*
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply
  • Cerebral Cortex / embryology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neural Stem Cells / cytology
  • Neural Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Neurogenesis*
  • Oligodendroglia / cytology
  • Oligodendroglia / physiology*
  • Organogenesis*
  • Pericytes / cytology
  • Pericytes / physiology
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Spinal Cord / blood supply
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / embryology*
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism


  • CXCR4 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, CXCR4
  • Wnt Proteins