Oligodendrocytes are generated from oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs). Mechanisms of OPC differentiation have been extensively examined with two-dimensional cell culture systems. However, these cellular events may be more accurately represented using a three-dimensional (3D) model. In this study, we report the development of a novel 3D OPC culture system using gels composed of a mixture of collagen and hyaluronan, wherein cultured rat primary OPCs can proliferate and differentiate into oligodendrocytes. Our data show that the gel concentration and cell-seeding density are critical factors for the numbers of OPCs and oligodendrocytes in our 3D culture system. In addition, Notch signaling, which supports cell-to-cell communication, may also be important for OPC function in our system because a Notch inhibitor DAPT suppressed OPC proliferation and differentiation. Taken together, cultured rat OPCs can grow in collagen-/hyaluronan-based gels, and our novel 3D OPC culture system may offer a useful platform for examining the mechanisms of OPC function in vitro.
Keywords: 3D culture; Notch signaling; astrocyte; cell–cell interaction; oligodendrocyte precursor cell.