Oligodendrocytes (OLs) generate myelin membranes for the rapid propagation of electrical signals along axons in the central nervous system (CNS) and provide metabolites to support axonal integrity and function. Differentiation of OLs from oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) is orchestrated by a multitude of intrinsic and extrinsic factors in the CNS. Disruption of this process, or OL loss in the developing or adult brain, as observed in various neurological conditions including hypoxia/ischemia, stroke, and demyelination, results in axonal dystrophy, neuronal dysfunction, and severe neurological impairments. While much is known regarding the intrinsic regulatory signals required for OL lineage cell progression in development, studies from pathological conditions highlight the importance of the CNS environment and external signals in regulating OL genesis and maturation. Here, we review the recent findings in OL biology in the context of the CNS physiological and pathological conditions, focusing on extrinsic factors that facilitate OL development and regeneration.
Keywords: Demyelination; Diffuse white matter injury; Multiple sclerosis; Myelin; Oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs); Oligodendrocytes; Remyelination.