Widespread myelination by oligodendrocytes is essential for the normal functioning of the vertebrate CNS. Oligodendrocyte precursors initially arise in restricted regions of the neuroepithelium and migrate relatively long distances to their final destinations. The signals that guide this migration have remained poorly understood, but recent studies suggest that glial precursors use similar molecular cues to those that guide axons through the complex terrain of the developing CNS. For example, in the developing optic nerve, glial-precursor migration from the brain towards the retina is guided by netrin-1 and semaphorin 3a. These studies suggest a novel mechanism governing glial precursor migration and provide new insights into development and the potential to direct CNS injury repair.
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