Oligodendrocytes are central nervous system glial cells responsible for myelination of neuronal axons. During brain development oligodendrocyte progenitor cells progress through a series of morphologically and immunohistochemically distinct differentiation steps leading to mature myelin-producing oligodendrocytes. Much of this same differentiation sequence is expressed in vitro by primary oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, and by the clonal progenitor cell line CG-4. We report the use of highly specific monoclonal antibodies against GM1, GD1a, GD1b, GT1b, and GQ1b to determine major brain ganglioside expression and morphological distribution during CG4 differentiation in vitro, Prominent anti-GD1b antibody staining defined a highly arborized intermediate stage of oligodendrocyte differentiation. In contrast, anti-GT1b antibody bound to discrete patches on the cell bodies of early progenitor cells and more mature oligodendrocytes, and to sites of progenitor arborization. The other anti-ganglioside antibodies tested did not bind above background levels. Cells with anti-GD1b antibody binding and morphology similar to those in differentiating CG-4 cells were detected in rat brain primary cell cultures enriched in oligodendrocyte precursors. The remarkably distinctive ganglioside immunoreactivity on differentiating oligodendrocytes suggests the possibility of a functional role for their surface expression.
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