This study examines the alteration of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells which express membrane NG2 chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan after focal ischemia in the rat brain. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to 90 min occlusion of the middle cerebral artery, followed by reperfusion time of up to 2 weeks. The distribution and morphological changes in NG2-positive oligodendrocyte progenitor cells were immunohistochemically examined. Stellate-shaped NG2-positive cells with multiple branched processes were detected in both the gray and white matter of normal brain. After 2 weeks of reperfusion, NG2-positive cells in the area surrounding the infarction site (peri-infarct area) clearly showed enlarged cell bodies with hypertrophied processes. These stained strongly for NG2. Although the number of NG2-positive cells was increased significantly in the peri-infarct area, it decreased markedly in the infarct core compared to controls. Double immunostaining revealed that these NG2-positive cells were neither astrocytes nor microglia, but NG2-positive oligodendrocyte progenitor cells. These progenitor cells are known to differentiate into oligodendrocytes. As such, this upregulation of NG2 expression may be an adaptive mechanism attempting to remyelinate rat brain tissue after ischemic insult. Only further study will elucidate this hypothesis.
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