Journal of Anatomy

Review: Glial lineages and myelination in the central nervous system

a1 University of Cambridge Neurology Unit, Addenbrooke's Hospital, and the Multiple Sclerosis Society Laboratory of the Medical Research Council Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, Cambridge, UK
a2 Present address: Wyeth-Ayerst Research, CN 8000, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.
a3 Present address: Department of Neurology, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, PL6 8DH, UK.
a4 Present address: Department of Histopathology, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham, B9 5SS, UK.
a5 Present address: Department of Neurology, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, London, SE5 3AF, UK.


Oligodendrocytes, derived from stem cell precursors which arise in subventricular zones of the developing central nervous system, have as their specialist role the synthesis and maintenance of myelin. Astrocytes contribute to the cellular architecture of the central nervous system and act as a source of growth factors and cytokines; microglia are bone-marrow derived macrophages which function as primary immunocompetent cells in the central nervous system. Myelination depends on the establishment of stable relationships between each differentiated oligodendrocyte and short segments of several neighbouring axons. There is growing evidence, especially from studies of glial cell implantation, that oligodendrocyte precursors persist in the adult nervous system and provide a limited capacity for the restoration of structure and function in myelinated pathways damaged by injury or disease.

(Accepted October 10 1996)

Key Words: Oligodendrocytes; astrocytes; microglia; myelin; development; repair.

c1 Correspondence to Professor Alastair Compston, University of Cambridge Neurology Unit, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 2QQ, UK.