Direct association with the vascular basement membrane is a frequent feature of myelinating oligodendrocytes in the neocortex

Justine S. C. Palhol, Maddalena Balia, Fernando Sánchez-Román Terán, Mélody Labarchède, Etienne Gontier, Arne Battefeld
Fluids Barriers CNS. 2023-04-03; 20(1):
DOI: 10.1186/s12987-023-00425-4

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Oligodendrocyte lineage cells interact with the vasculature in the gray matter. Physical and functional interactions between blood vessels and oligodendrocyte precursor cells play an essential role in both the developing and adult brain. Oligodendrocyte precursor cells have been shown to migrate along the vasculature and subsequently detach from it during their differentiation to oligodendrocytes. However, the association of mature oligodendrocytes with blood vessels has been noted since the discovery of this glial cell type almost a century ago, but this interaction remains poorly explored.

Here, we systematically investigated the extent of mature oligodendrocyte interaction with the vasculature in mouse brain. We found that ~ 17% of oligodendrocytes were in contact with blood vessels in the neocortex, the hippocampal CA1 region and the cerebellar cortex. Contacts were made mainly with capillaries and sparsely with larger arterioles or venules. By combining light and serial electron microscopy, we demonstrated that oligodendrocytes are in direct contact with the vascular basement membrane, raising the possibility of direct signaling pathways and metabolite exchange with endothelial cells. During experimental remyelination in the adult, oligodendrocytes were regenerated and associated with blood vessels in the same proportion compared to control cortex, suggesting a homeostatic regulation of the vasculature-associated oligodendrocyte population.

Based on their frequent and close association with blood vessels, we propose that vasculature-associated oligodendrocytes should be considered as an integral part of the brain vasculature microenvironment. This particular location could underlie specific functions of vasculature-associated oligodendrocytes, while contributing to the vulnerability of mature oligodendrocytes in neurological diseases.

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