The glial scar is comprised of a heterogeneous population of reactive astrocytes. NG2 glial cells (also known as oligodendrocyte progenitor cells or polydendrocytes) may contribute to this heterogeneity by differentiating into astrocytes in the injured CNS, but there have been conflicting reports about whether astrocytes comprise a significant portion of the NG2 cell lineage. By using genetic fate mapping after spinal cord injury (SCI) and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in mice, the goal of this study was to confirm and extend upon previous findings, which have shown that NG2 cell plasticity varies across CNS injuries. We generated mice that express tdTomato in NG2 lineage cells and express GFP under the Aldh1l1 or Glt1 promoter so that NG2 glia-derived astrocytes can be detected by their expression of GFAP and/or GFP. We found that astrocytes comprise approximately 25% of the total NG2 cell lineage in the glial scar by 4 weeks after mid-thoracic contusive SCI, but only 9% by the peak of functional deficit after EAE. Interestingly, a subpopulation of astrocytes expressed only GFP without co-expression of GFAP, uncovering their heterogeneity and the possibility of an underestimation of NG2 glia-derived astrocytes in previous studies. Additionally, we used high performance liquid chromatography to measure the level of tamoxifen and its metabolites in the spinal cord and show that genetic labeling of NG2 glia-derived astrocytes is not an artifact of residual tamoxifen. Overall, our data demonstrate that a heterogeneous population of astrocytes are derived from NG2 glia in an injury type-dependent manner.
- Astrocyte heterogeneity
- Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis
- Glial scar
- Oligodendrocyte progenitor cells
- Spinal cord injury
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Neuroscience