Dye coupling between spinal cord oligodendrocytes: differences in coupling efficiency between gray and white matter

Glia. 1998 Sep;24(1):108-20.


Oligodendrocytes express two gap junction proteins, connexin32 (Cx32) and Cx45. To test for functional coupling between oligodendrocytes, cells were filled with the (Cx32-permeable) dyes Lucifer Yellow (LY) and Neurobiotin. Cells in slices from rat spinal cord were dialyzed via the patch pipette containing the dye while recording with the patch-clamp technique. The dye-labeled cells were identified as oligodendrocytes by their characteristic pattern of membrane currents and by morphology. In gray matter, 18% of the injected cells (N = 94) were coupled to more than three adjacent cells (slices from postnatal day 1 to 19). In contrast, in white matter, the dye was restricted to the injected cell (N = 63 for Lucifer Yellow injection only; N = 11 for LY and Neurobiotin) indicating a lack of functional coupling. Immunolabeling of Cx32 in mature oligodendrocytes of white matter revealed that the gap junction protein is localized on the cell bodies and abaxonal processes which occupy non-overlapping territories. In immature white matter and gray matter, Cx32 is mostly concentrated in the somatic region of the cells. In addition to Cx32, we have obtained immunocytochemical data that oligodendrocytes can express Cx45 with a labeling pattern different from the Cx32 expression. Two alternative interpretations of the coupling data are discussed: 1) that the presence of Cx32 in mature white matter oligodendrocytes does not serve for communication between cells, but rather for communication within oligodendrocytes in the sense of autocellular coupling, or 2) that the glial syncytium is furnished with a high degree of functional rectification at the oligodendrocytic side.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Connexins / metabolism
  • Electrophysiology
  • Fluorescent Dyes*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Isoquinolines*
  • Oligodendroglia / physiology*
  • Periaqueductal Gray / cytology
  • Periaqueductal Gray / physiology
  • Rats
  • Spinal Cord / cytology*
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Connexins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Isoquinolines
  • connexin 32
  • connexin 45
  • neurobiotin
  • Biotin
  • lucifer yellow