Identity, distribution, and development of polydendrocytes: NG2-expressing glial cells

Akiko Nishiyama, Masahiko Watanabe, Zhongshu Yang, Jie Bu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

181 Scopus citations


Cells that express the NG2 proteoglycan (NG2+ cells) comprise a unique population of glial cells in the central nervous system. While there is no question that some NG2+ cells differentiate into oligodendrocytes during development, the persistence of numerous NG2+ cells in the mature CNS has raised questions about their identity, relation to other CNS cell types, and functions besides their progenitor role. NG2+ cells also express the alpha receptor for platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF αR), a receptor that mediates oligodendrocyte progenitor proliferation during development. Antigenically, NG2+ cells are distinct from fibrous and protoplasmic astrocytes, resting microglia, and mature oligodendrocytes. Therefore, we propose the term polydendrocytes to refer to all NG2-expressing glial cells in the CNS parenchyma. This distinguishes them from the classical glial cell types and identifies them as the fourth major glial population in the CNS. Recent observations suggest that polydendrocytes are complex cells that physically and functionally interact with other cell types in the CNS. Committed oligodendrocyte progenitor cells arise from restricted foci in the ventral ventricular zone in both spinal cord and brain. It remains to be clarified whether there are multiple sources of oligodendrocytes, and if so whether polydendrocytes (NG2+ cells) represent progenitor cells of all oligodendrocyte lineages. Proliferation of NG2+ cells during early development appears to be dependent on PDGF, but the regulatory mechanisms that govern NG2+ cell proliferation in the mature CNS remain unknown. Pulse-chase labeling with bromodeoxyuridine indicates that polydendrocytes that proliferate in the postnatal spinal cord differentiate into oligodendrocytes. Novel experimental approaches are being developed to further elucidate the functional properties and differentiation potential of polydendrocytes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)437-455
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Neurocytology
Issue number6-7
StatePublished - Jul 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Anatomy
  • Cell Biology
  • Histology


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