During rat embryogenesis, PDGF alpha receptor (PDGF-alpha R) mRNA is expressed in the ventral half of the spinal cord in two longitudinal columns, one each side of the central canal. Initially, these columns are only two cells wide but the cells subsequently appear to proliferate and disseminate throughout the spinal cord. Our previous studies of PDGF-alpha R expression in the developing CNS suggested that PDGF-alpha R may be a useful marker of the oligodendrocyte lineage in situ. The data presented here complement those studies and lead us to propose that the earliest oligodendrocyte precursors in the spinal cord originate in a very restricted region of the ventricular zone during a brief window of time around embryonic day 14 (E14). In the embryonic brain, migrating PDGF-alpha R+ cells appear to originate in a localized germinal zone in the ventral diencephalon (beneath the foramen of Monro). Our data demonstrate that gene expression and cell fate can be regulated with exquisite spatial resolution along the dorsoventral axis of the mammalian neural tube.

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