Normal and reactive NG2+ glial cells are distinct from resting and activated microglia

J Neurosci Res. 1997 May 15;48(4):299-312. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-4547(19970515)48:4<299::aid-jnr2>;2-6.


We have previously used antibodies to the NG2 proteoglycan and the alpha receptor for platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF alpha receptor) to identify oligodendroglial progenitor cells in vivo and in vitro. It has recently become evident that the GD3 antigen, which has been widely used as a marker for oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, is also expressed by microglial cells. In this study we have examined the relationship between the NG2+/PDGF alpha receptor+ glial progenitor cells and microglial cells in normal developing and mature rat brain and in inflammatory lesions in mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Double-labeling of sections from normal rat brain using anti-NG2 antibodies and lectin from Griffonia simplicifolia (GSA I-B4) or monoclonal antibody 4H1 indicated that there is no overlap between NG2+ glial progenitor cells and microglia in the parenchyma of the central nervous system. In EAE lesions, both NG2+ cells and microglia, identified by antibodies to F4/80 and CD45, displayed reactive changes characterized by increased cell number and staining intensity and shortening and thickening of cell processes. Both cell types were found surrounding perivascular infiltrates of lymphocytes. Double-labeling EAE sections for NG2 and F4/80 or CD45 failed to reveal cells that co-expressed both antigens, suggesting that reactive NG2+ cells are distinct from activated microglia. However, a close spatial relationship between NG2+ cells and microglia was observed in the normal brain and to a greater extent in EAE, where processes of an activated microglial cell were sometimes seen to encircle an NG2+ cell. These observations are indicative of a functional interaction between microglia and the NG2+ glial cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / ultrastructure
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Microglia / cytology*
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Neuroglia / cytology*
  • Rats