The developmental process of central nervous system (CNS) myelin sheath formation is characterized by well-coordinated cellular activities ultimately ensuring rapid and synchronized neural communication. During this process, myelinating CNS cells, namely oligodendrocytes (OLGs), undergo distinct steps of differentiation, whereby the progression of earlier maturation stages of OLGs represents a critical step toward the timely establishment of myelinated axonal circuits. Given the complexity of functional integration, it is not surprising that OLG maturation is controlled by a yet fully to be defined set of both negative and positive modulators. In this context, we provide here first evidence for a role of lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) signaling via the G protein-coupled receptor LPA6 as a negative modulatory regulator of myelination-associated gene expression in OLGs. More specifically, the cell surface accessibility of LPA6 was found to be restricted to the earlier maturation stages of differentiating OLGs, and OLG maturation was found to occur precociously in Lpar6 knockout mice. To further substantiate these findings, a novel small molecule ligand with selectivity for preferentially LPA6 and LPA6 agonist characteristics was functionally characterized in vitro in primary cultures of rat OLGs and in vivo in the developing zebrafish. Utilizing this approach, a negative modulatory role of LPA6 signaling in OLG maturation could be corroborated. During development, such a functional role of LPA6 signaling likely serves to ensure timely coordination of circuit formation and myelination. Under pathological conditions as seen in the major human demyelinating disease multiple sclerosis (MS), however, persistent LPA6 expression and signaling in OLGs can be seen as an inhibitor of myelin repair. Thus, it is of interest that LPA6 protein levels appear elevated in MS brain samples, thereby suggesting that LPA6 signaling may represent a potential new druggable pathway suitable to promote myelin repair in MS.
Keywords: computational ligand-protein docking; lipid signaling; multiple sclerosis; myelination; oligodendrocyte; small molecule ligands.
© 2022 International Society for Neurochemistry.