, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 216-228
Date: 05 Apr 2013

Oligodendroglia and neurotrophic factors in neurodegeneration

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Abstract

Myelination by oligodendroglial cells (OLs) enables the propagation of action potentials along neuronal axons, which is essential for rapid information flow in the central nervous system. Besides saltatory conduction, the myelin sheath also protects axons against inflammatory and oxidative insults. Loss of myelin results in axonal damage and ultimately neuronal loss in demyelinating disorders. However, accumulating evidence indicates that OLs also provide support to neurons via mechanisms beyond the insulating function of myelin. More importantly, an increasing volume of reports indicates defects of OLs in numerous neurodegenerative diseases, sometimes even preceding neuronal loss in pre-symptomatic episodes, suggesting that OL pathology may be an important mechanism contributing to the initiation and/or progression of neurodegeneration. This review focuses on the emerging picture of neuronal support by OLs in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders through diverse molecular and cellular mechanisms, including direct neuron-myelin interaction, metabolic support by OLs, and neurotrophic factors produced by and/or acting on OLs.

These authors contributed equally to this work.