Gene expression in oligodendrocytes during remyelination reveals cholesterol homeostasis as a therapeutic target in multiple sclerosis

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 May 14;116(20):10130-10139. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1821306116. Epub 2019 Apr 30.


Regional differences in neurons, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and microglia exist in the brain during health, and regional differences in the transcriptome may occur for each cell type during neurodegeneration. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is multifocal, and regional differences in the astrocyte transcriptome occur in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an MS model. MS and EAE are characterized by inflammation, demyelination, and axonal damage, with minimal remyelination. Here, RNA-sequencing analysis of MS tissues from six brain regions suggested a focus on oligodendrocyte lineage cells (OLCs) in corpus callosum. Olig1-RiboTag mice were used to determine the translatome of OLCs in vivo in corpus callosum during the remyelination phase of a chronic cuprizone model with axonal damage. Cholesterol-synthesis gene pathways dominated as the top up-regulated pathways in OLCs during remyelination. In EAE, remyelination was induced with estrogen receptor-β (ERβ) ligand treatment, and up-regulation of cholesterol-synthesis gene expression was again observed in OLCs. ERβ-ligand treatment in the cuprizone model further increased cholesterol synthesis gene expression and enhanced remyelination. Conditional KOs of ERβ in OLCs demonstrated that increased cholesterol-synthesis gene expression in OLCs was mediated by direct effects in both models. To address this direct effect, ChIP assays showed binding of ERβ to the putative estrogen-response element of a key cholesterol-synthesis gene (Fdps). As fetal OLCs are exposed in utero to high levels of estrogens in maternal blood, we discuss how remyelinating properties of estrogen treatment in adults during injury may recapitulate normal developmental myelination through targeting cholesterol homeostasis in OLCs.

Keywords: MS animal models; cholesterol; multiple sclerosis; oligodendrocytes; remyelination.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cholesterol / biosynthesis*
  • Cuprizone
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / metabolism*
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / metabolism*
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism*
  • Remyelination*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA


  • Estrogen Receptor beta
  • Cuprizone
  • Cholesterol