Oligodendrocytes develop in defined CNS regions as progenitor cells, which migrate to their final destinations, encountering soluble and membrane-bound signals that influence their differentiation and potential to myelinate axonal projections. To identify the regulatory genes that may be involved in this process, microarray analysis of developing oligodendroglia was performed. Several neural guidance genes, including members of the neuropilin (NP) and semaphorin families were detected. These findings were verified and expanded upon using RT-PCR with RNA from fluorescent activated cell sorted A2B5+ oligodendrocyte progenitors and O4+ pro-oligodendrocytes isolated from in vitro and in vivo sources. RT-PCR, western and immunocytochemical analyses revealed that oligodendrocytes expressed NP1, several alternatively spliced isoforms of NP2, and a broad spectrum of both soluble (Class 3), membrane-spanning (Class 4-6), and membrane-tethered (Class 7) semaphorin ligands. Class 3 semaphorins, in a modified stripe assay, caused the collapse of oligodendrocyte progenitor growth cones, redirection of processes, and altered progenitor migration. Our data support a role for neuropilins and semaphorins in orchestrating the migration patterns of developing oligodendrocytes in the CNS.
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