Open Access Open Badges Research article

Astroglial-axonal interactions during early stages of myelination in mixed cultures using in vitro and ex vivo imaging techniques

Kalliopi Ioannidou1, Kurt I Anderson2, David Strachan2, Julia M Edgar1* and Susan C Barnett1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Infection, Immunity and inflammation, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Sir Graeme Davies Building, 120 University Place, Glasgow G12 8TA, UK

2 CRUK Beatson Institute, Garscube Estate, Glasgow G61 1BD, UK

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BMC Neuroscience 2014, 15:59  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-15-59

Published: 2 May 2014



Myelination is a very complex process that requires the cross talk between various neural cell types. Previously, using cytosolic or membrane associated GFP tagged neurospheres, we followed the interaction of oligodendrocytes with axons using time-lapse imaging in vitro and ex vivo and demonstrated dynamic changes in cell morphology. In this study we focus on GFP tagged astrocytes differentiated from neurospheres and their interactions with axons.


We show the close interaction of astrocyte processes with axons and with oligodendrocytes in mixed mouse spinal cord cultures with formation of membrane blebs as previously seen for oligodendrocytes in the same cultures. When GFP-tagged neurospheres were transplanted into the spinal cord of the dysmyelinated shiverer mouse, confirmation of dynamic changes in cell morphology was provided and a prevalence for astrocyte differentiation compared with oligodendroglial differentiation around the injection site. Furthermore, we were able to image GFP tagged neural cells in vivo after transplantation and the cells exhibited similar membrane changes as cells visualised in vitro and ex vivo.


These data show that astrocytes exhibit dynamic cell process movement and changes in their membrane topography as they interact with axons and oligodendrocytes during the process of myelination, with the first demonstration of bleb formation in astrocytes.

Astrocytes; Neurospheres; Time lapse; Glial/axonal interactions; Membrane blebs