Following stroke-induced neuronal damage, quiescent oligodendrocyte precursors (OPCs) are activated to proliferate and later to differentiate to myelin-producing cells. GPR17, a receptor transiently expressed on early OPCs, has emerged as a target to implement stroke repair through stimulation of OPC maturation. However, being GPR17 completely downregulated in myelin-producing oligodendrocytes, its actual role in determining the final fate of OPCs after cerebral ischemia is still uncertain. Here, to univocally define the spatiotemporal changes and final fate of GPR17-expressing OPCs, we induced ischemia by middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAo) in reporter GPR17iCreERT2:CAG-eGreen florescent protein (GFP) mice, in which, upon tamoxifen treatment, cells expressing GPR17 become green and traceable for their entire life. Starting from 3 days and up to 2 weeks after MCAo, GFP+cells markedly accumulated in regions surrounding the ischemic lesion; several of them proliferated, as shown by co-labeling of the DNA synthesis marker 5-Bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU). Almost all GFP+/BrdU+cells expressed the OPC early marker neural/glial antigen 2 (NG2), indicating that they were still precursors. Accumulation of GFP+cells was also because of OPC recruitment from surrounding areas, as suggested in vivo by acquisition of typical features of migrating OPCs, shown in vitro in presence of the chemoattractant PDGF-AA and confirmed by transplantation of GFP+-OPCs in wild-type MCAo mice. Eight weeks after MCAo, only some of these precociously recruited cells had undergone maturation as shown by NG2 loss and acquisition of mature myelinating markers like GSTpi. A pool of recruited GFP+-OPCs was kept at a precursor stage to likely make it available for further insults. Thus, very early after ischemia, GFP+-OPCs proliferate and migrate toward the lesion; however, most of these cells remain undifferentiated, suggesting functional roles other than myelination.
- Journal Article