Ascl1/Mash1 promotes brain oligodendrogenesis during myelination and remyelination

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Oligodendrocytes are the myelin-forming cells of the CNS. They differentiate from oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) that are produced from progenitors throughout life but more actively during the neonatal period and in response to demyelinating insults. An accurate regulation of oligodendrogenesis is required to generate oligodendrocytes during these developmental or repair processes. We hypothesized that this regulation implicates transcription factors, which are expressed by OPCs and/or their progenitors. Ascl1/Mash1 is a proneural transcription factor previously implicated in embryonic oligodendrogenesis and operating in genetic interaction with Olig2, an essential transcriptional regulator in oligodendrocyte development. Herein, we have investigated the contribution of Ascl1 to oligodendrocyte development and remyelination in the postnatal cortex. During the neonatal period, Ascl1 expression was detected in progenitors of the cortical subventricular zone and in cortical OPCs. Different genetic approaches to delete Ascl1 in cortical progenitors or OPCs reduced neonatal oligodendrogenesis, showing that Ascl1 positively regulated both OPC specification from subventricular zone progenitors as well as the balance between OPC differentiation and proliferation. Examination of remyelination processes, both in the mouse model for focal demyelination of the corpus callosum and in multiple sclerosis lesions in humans, indicated that Ascl1 activity was upregulated along with increased oligodendrogenesis observed in remyelinating lesions. Additional genetic evidence indicated that remyelinating oligodendrocytes derived from Ascl1(+) progenitors/OPCs and that Ascl1 was required for proper remyelination. Together, our results show that Ascl1 function modulates multiple steps of OPC development in the postnatal brain and in response to demyelinating insults.

Journal details

Volume 33
Issue number 23
Pages 9752-9768
Publication date