The jimpy mutation of the X-linked proteolipid protein (Plp) gene causes dysmyelination and premature death of the mice. The established phenotype is characterised by severe hypomyelination, increased numbers of dead oligodendrocytes and astrocytosis. The purpose of this study was to define the earliest cellular abnormalities in the cervical spinal cord. We find that on the first and third postnatal days the amount of myelin in jimpy spinal cord is approximately 20% of wild-type. However, the total glial cell density, the number of dead glial cells and the number and distribution of Plp-positive cells, as assessed by in situ hybridization, are similar to wild-type during the first week of life. Immunostaining of cryosections has identified that jimpy spinal cords express on schedule, a variety of antigens associated with mature oligodendrocytes. Dissociated oligodendrocytes, cultured for 18 hours to reflect their in vivo differentiation, express MBP and surface myelin-associated glycoprotein at the same frequency as wild- type. By comparison, the proportion of jimpy oligodendrocytes expressing surface myelin/oligodendrocyte glycoprotein is reduced by approximately 34%. In vivo, however, only a small minority of axons is surrounded by a collar of myelin-associated glycoprotein, suggesting that the majority of jimpy oligodendrocytes fail to make appropriate ensheathment of axons. Although the DM20 isoform is expressed in the embryonic CNS prior to myelin formation, the cellular abnormalities appear to correspond to the time at which the Plp isoform becomes predominant. The results suggest that the primary abnormality in jimpy is the inability of oligodendrocytes to properly associate with, and then ensheath, axons and that oligodendrocyte death compounds, rather than initiates, the established phenotype.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology