There is a class of oligodendrocyte progenitors, called O-2A progenitors, that is characterized by expression of platelet-derived growth factor α-receptors (PDGFR(α)). It is not known whether all oligodendrocytes are derived from these PDGFRalpha-progenitors or whether a subset(s) of oligodendrocytes develops from a different, PDGFR alpha-negative lineage(s). We investigated the relationship between PDGF and oligodendrogenesis by examining mice that lack either PDGF-A or PDGF-B. PDGF-A null mice had many fewer PDGFR alpha-progenitors than either wild-type or PDGF-B null mice, demonstrating that proliferation of these cells relies heavily (though not exclusively) on PDGF-AA homodimers. PDGF-A-deficient mice also had reduced numbers of oligodendrocytes and a dysmyelinating phenotype (tremor). Not all parts of the central nervous system (CNS) were equally affected in the knockout. For example, there were profound reductions in the numbers of PDGFR alpha-progenitors and oligodendrocytes in the spinal cord and cerebellum, but less severe reductions of both cell types in the medulla. This correlation suggests a close link between PDGFRalpha-progenitors and oligodendrogenesis in most or all parts of the CNS. We also provide evidence that myelin proteolipid protein (PLP/DM-20)-positive cells in the late embryonic brainstem are non-dividing cells, presumably immature oligodendrocytes, and not proliferating precursors.

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