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In footnote 21 of a groundbreaking paper on astrocyte
communication published in Science in 1990, there is a prediction.
The authors, Cornell-Bell et al., showed calcium waves
propagating widely through monocultures of astrocytes in
response to glutamate application. But in the footnote, they
cautioned that their observations could be considered in some
respects an experimental artifact. The authors believed that
instead of the promiscuous propagation of calcium waves
spreading throughout the entire population of astrocytes
in culture, that in the brain, the communication would be far
more discrete and more interesting.
“Of what use a newborn babe?” was Oersted's response to
a question from the audience as to the value of electromagnetism
following his demonstration that a compass needle
could be deflected by passing current through a nearby wire.
Such is the immediate reaction anytime something new is
encountered: What is it, and why do we need it? This perplexity
arises from the certain conclusion of a proof derived from the
objective facts: we seem to have managed quite well up to now
without it. But as functional as a world before cell phones and
email seemed, how dysfunctional would the world now appear
without them? Time changes, and Science is change. Scientific
journals track and pioneer those changes.
Little is known about the functional connectivity between astrocytes in the CNS. To explore this issue we photo-released glutamate onto a single astrocyte in murine hippocampal slices and imaged calcium responses. Photo-release of glutamate causes a metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR)-dependent increase in internal calcium in the stimulated astrocyte and delayed calcium elevations in neighboring cells. The delayed elevation in calcium was not caused by either neuronal activity following synaptic transmission or by glutamate released from astrocytes. However, it was reduced by flufenamic acid (FFA), which is consistent with a role for adenosine triphosphate (ATP) release from astrocytes as an intercellular messenger. Exogenous ligands such as ATP (1 µM) increased the number of astrocytes that were recruited into coupled astrocytic networks, indicating that extracellular accumulation of neurotransmitters modulates neuronal excitability, synaptic transmission and functional coupling between astrocytes.
In this review, we discuss examples that show how glial-cell pathology is increasingly recognized in several neurodegenerative diseases. We also discuss the more provocative idea that some of the disorders that are currently considered to be neurodegenerative diseases might, in fact, be due to primary abnormalities in glia. Although the mechanism of glial pathology (i.e. modulating glutamate excitotoxicity) might be better established for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a role for neuronal–glial interactions in the pathogenesis of most neurodegenerative diseases is plausible. This burgeoning area of neuroscience will receive much attention in the future and it is expected that further understanding of basic neuronal–glial interactions will have a significant impact on the understanding of the fundamental nature of human neurodegenerative disorders.
Nonsynaptic release of ATP from electrically stimulated dorsal root gangion (DRG) axons inhibits Schwann cell (SC) proliferation and arrests SC development at the premyelinating stage, but the specific types of purinergic receptor(s) and intracellular signaling pathways involved in this form of neuron–glia communication are not known. Recent research shows that adenosine is a neuron–glial transmitter between axons and myelinating glia of the CNS. The present study investigates the possibility that adenosine might have a similar function in communicating between axons and premyelinating SCs. Using a combination of pharmacological and molecular approaches, we found that mouse SCs in culture express functional adenosine receptors and ATP receptors, a far more complex array of purinergic receptors than thought previously. Adenosine, but not ATP, activates ERK/MAPK through stimulation of cAMP-linked A2A adenosine receptors. Both ATP and adenosine inhibit proliferation of SCs induced by platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), via mechanisms that are partly independent. In contrast to ATP, adenosine failed to inhibit the differentiation of SCs to the O4+ stage. This indicates that, in addition to ATP, adenosine is an activity-dependent signaling molecule between axons and premyelinating Schwann cells, but that electrical activity, acting through adenosine, has opposite effects on the differentiation of myelinating glia in the PNS and CNS.
Myelin-associated glycoprotein (MAG) has been implicated in inhibition of nerve regeneration in the CNS. This results from interactions between MAG and the Nogo receptor and gangliosides on the apposing axon, which generates intracellular inhibitory signals in the neuron. However, because myelin–axon signaling is bidirectional, we undertook an analysis of potential MAG-activated signaling in oligodendrocytes (OLs). In this study, we show that antibody cross-linking of MAG on the surface of OLs (to mimic axonal binding) leads to the redistribution of MAG into detergent (TX-100)-insoluble complexes, hyperphosphorylation of Fyn, dephosphorylation of serine and threonine residues in specific proteins, including lactate dehydrogenase and the β subunit of the trimeric G-protein-complex, and cleavage of α-fodrin followed by a transient depolymerization of actin. We propose that these changes are part of a signaling cascade in OLs associated with MAG function as a mediator of axon–glial communication which might have implications for the mutual regulation of the formation and stability of axons and myelin.
Transplantation of cell suspensions containing olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) has been reported to remyelinate demyelinated axons in the spinal cord with a Schwann cell (SC)-like pattern of myelination. However, questions have been raised recently as to whether OECs can form SC-like myelin. To address this issue we prepared SCs and OECs from transgenic rats in which a marker gene, human placental alkaline phosphatase (hPAP), is linked to the ubiquitously active promoter of the R26 gene. SCs were prepared from the sciatic nerve and OECs from the outer nerve-fiber layer of the olfactory bulb. Positive S100 and p75 immunostaining indicated that >95% of cells in culture displayed either SC or OEC phenotypes. Suspensions of either SCs or OECs were transplanted into an X-irradiation/ethidium bromide demyelinating lesion in the spinal cord. We observed extensive SC-like remyelination following either SC or OEC transplantation 3 weeks after injection of the cells. Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) chromagen reaction product was associated clearly with the myelin-forming cells. Thus, cell suspensions that are enriched in either SCs or OECs result in peripheral-like myelin when transplanted in vivo.
Cranial neural crest cells differentiate into diverse derivatives including neurons and glia of the cranial ganglia, and cartilage and bone of the facial skeleton. Here, we explore the function of a novel transcription factor of the spalt family that might be involved in early cell-lineage decisions of the avian neural crest. The chicken spalt4 gene (csal4) is expressed in the neural tube, migrating neural crest, branchial arches and, transiently, in the cranial ectoderm. Later, it is expressed in the mesectodermal, but not neuronal or glial, derivatives of midbrain and hindbrain neural crest. After over-expression by electroporation into the cranial neural tube and neural crest, we observed a marked redistribution of electroporated neural crest cells in the vicinity of the trigeminal ganglion. In control-electroporated embryos, numerous, labeled neural crest cells (∼80% of the population) entered the ganglion, many of which differentiated into neurons. By contrast, few (∼30% of the population) spalt-electroporated neural crest cells entered the trigeminal ganglion. Instead, they localized in the mesenchyme around the ganglionic periphery or continued further ventrally to the branchial arches. Interestingly, little or no expression of differentiation markers for neurons or other cell types was observed in spalt-electroporated neural crest cells.
Of the axonal signals influencing myelination, adhesion molecules expressed at the axonal surface are strong candidates to mediate interactions between myelinating cells and axons. The recognition cell-adhesion molecule L1, a member of the immunoglobulin superfamily has been shown to play important roles in neuronal migration and survival, and in PNS myelination. We have investigated the role of axonally expressed L1 in CNS myelination. In co-cultures of myelinating oligodendrocytes and neurons derived from murine brain, we demonstrate that, before myelination, L1 immunoreactivity is confined to neurites. After myelination commences, L1 expression is downregulated on myelinated axons and adjacent, but not yet myelinated, internodes. Interfering with L1 before the onset of myelination, by adding either anti-L1 antibody or L1-Fc fusion proteins to the culture medium, inhibits myelination. In addition, in purified cultures of oligodendrocytes, L1-Fc fusion protein prevents lysophosphatidic acid-induced activation of the mitogen-activated kinase (MAP)-kinase pathway. Together, our data indicate that L1 is involved in the initiation of CNS myelination, and that this effect might involve the dephosphorylation of oligodendroglial phosphoproteins.
The migration of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) is modulated by
secreted molecules in their environment and by cell–cell and matrix–cell
interactions. Here, we ask whether membrane-anchored guidance cues, such as
the ephrin ligands and their Eph receptors, participate in the control of
OPC migration in the optic nerve. We postulate that EphA and EphB receptors,
which are expressed on axons of retinal ganglion cells, interact with ephrins
on the surface of OPCs. We show the expression of ephrinA5, ephrinB
2 and ephrinB3 in the migrating OPCs of the optic nerve as
well as in the diencephalic sites from where they originate. In addition,
we demonstrate that coated EphB2-Fc receptors, which are specific
for ephrinB2/B3 ligands, induce dramatic changes
in the contact and migratory properties of OPCs, indicating that axonal EphB
receptors activate ephrinB signaling in OPCs. Based on these findings, we
propose that OPCs are characterized by an ephrin code, and that Eph–ephrin
interactions between axons and OPCs control the distribution of OPCs in the
optic axonal tracts, and the progress and arrest of their migration.
The evolutionary origin of myelinating cells in the vertebrate nervous system remains a mystery. A clear delineation of the developmental potentialities of neuronal support cells in the CNS and PNS might aid in formulating a hypothesis about the origins of myelinating cells. Although a glial-precursor cell in the CNS can differentiate into oligodendrocytes (OLs), Schwann cells (SCs) and astrocytes, a homologous multipotential cell has not yet been found in the PNS. Here, we identify a cell type of embryonic dorsal root ganglia (DRG) of the PNS – the satellite cell – that develops into OLs, SCs and astrocytes. Interestingly, satellite-cell-derived OL precursors were found in cultures prepared from embryonic day 17 (E17) to postnatal day 8 (P8) ganglia, but not from adult DRGs, revealing a narrow developmental window for multipotentiality. We suggest that compromising the organization of the ganglia triggers a differentiation pathway in a subpopulation of satellite cells, inducing them to become myelinating cells with either a CNS or PNS phenotype. Our data provide an additional, novel piece in the myelinating-cell-precursor puzzle, and lead to the concept that cells in the CNS and PNS that function to ensheath neuronal cell bodies and axons can differentiate into OLs, SCs and astrocytes. In sum, it appears that glial fate might be determined over and above the CNS/PNS dichotomy. Last, we suggest that primordial ensheathing cells form the original cell population in which the myelination program first evolved.