Neuron Glia Biology

Research Article

NG2 cells generate oligodendrocytes and gray matter astrocytes in the spinal cord

Xiaoqin Zhua1 c1, Robert A. Hilla1 and Akiko Nishiyamaa1 c1

a1 Department of Physiology and Neurobiology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, USA


NG2 cells represent a unique glial cell population that is distributed widely throughout the developing and adult CNS and is distinct from astrocytes, mature oligodendrocytes and microglia. The ability of NG2 cells to differentiate into myelinating oligodendrocytes has been documented in vivo and in vitro. We reported recently that NG2 cells in the forebrain differentiate into myelinating oligodendrocytes but into a subpopulation of protoplasmic astrocytes (Zhu et al., 2008). However, the in vivo fate of NG2 cells in the spinal cord and cerebellum has remained unknown. To investigate the fate of NG2 cells in caudal central nervous system (CNS) regions in vivo, we examined the phenotype of cells that express EGFP in mice that are double transgenic for NG2CreBAC and the Cre reporter Z/EG. The fate of NG2 cells can be studied in these mice by permanent expression of EGFP in cells that have undergone Cre-mediated recombination in NG2 cells. We find that NG2 cells give rise to oligodendrocytes in both gray and white matter of the spinal cord and cerebellum, and to protoplasmic astrocytes in the gray matter of the spinal cord. However, NG2 cells do not give rise to astrocytes in the white matter of the spinal cord and cerebellum. These observations indicate that NG2 cells serve as precursor cells for oligodendrocytes and a subpopulation of protoplasmic astrocytes throughout the rostrocaudal axis of the CNS.