Ex Vivo myelination and Remyelination in Cerebellar Slice Cultures as a Quantitative Model for Developmental and Disease-Relevant Manipulations

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Abstract

Studying myelination in vitro and in vivo poses numerous challenges. The differentiation of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) in vitro, although scalable, does not recapitulate axonal myelination. OPC-neuron cocultures and OPC-fiber cultures allow for the examination of in vitro myelination, but they lack additional cell types that are present in vivo, such as astrocytes and microglia. In vivo mouse models, however, are less amenable to chemical, environmental, and genetic manipulation and are much more labor intensive. Described is an ex vivo mouse cerebellar slice culture (CSC) quantitative system that is useful for: 1) studying developmental myelination, 2) modeling demyelination and remyelination, and 3) conducting translational research. Sagittal sections of the cerebellum and hindbrain are isolated from postnatal day (P) 0–2 mice, after which they myelinate ex vivo for 12 days. During this period, slices can be manipulated in various ways, including the addition of compounds to test for an effect on developmental myelination. In addition, tissue can be fixed for electron microscopy to assess myelin ultrastructure and compaction. To model disease, CSC can be subjected to acute hypoxia to induce hypomyelination. Demyelination in these explants can also be induced by lysolecithin, which allows for the identification of factors that promote remyelination. Aside from chemical and environmental modifications, CSC can be isolated from transgenic mice and are responsive to genetic manipulation induced with Ad-Cre adenoviruses and tamoxifen. Thus, cerebellar slice cultures are a fast, reproducible, and quantifiable model for recapitulating myelination.