The GPR17 receptor in NG2 expressing cells: Focus onin vivocell maturation and participation in acute trauma and chronic damage

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NG2-expressing cells comprise a population of cycling precursors that can exit the cell cycle and differentiate into mature oligodendrocytes. As a whole, they display heterogeneous properties and behaviors that remain unresolved at the molecular level, although partly interpretable as distinct maturation stages. To address this issue, we analyzed the expression of the GPR17 receptor, recently shown to decorate NG2-expressing cells and to operate as an early sensor of brain damage, in immature and adult oligodendrocyte progenitors in the intact brain and after injury. In both the early postnatal and adult cerebral cortex, distinct GPR17 protein localizations and expression levels define different stages of oligodendroglial maturation, ranging from the precursor phase to the premyelinating phenotype. As soon as cells exit mitosis, a fraction of NG2-expressing cells displays accumulation of GPR17 protein in the Golgi apparatus. GPR17 expression is subsequently upregulated and distributed to processes of cells that stop dividing, progressively lose NG2 positivity and assume premyelinating features. Absence of colabeling with mature markers or myelin proteins indicates that GPR17 is downregulated when cells complete their final maturation. BrdU-based fate-mapping demonstrated that a significant fraction of newly generated oligodendrocyte progenitors transiently upregulates GPR17 during maturation. Importantly, we also found that GPR17 does not participate to the early reaction of NG2-expressing cells to damage, while it is induced at postacute stages after injury. These findings identify GPR17 as a marker for progenitor progression within the oligodendroglial lineage and highlight its participation to postacute reactivity of NG2 cells in different injury paradigms. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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