To enable rapid propagation of action potentials, axons are ensheathed by myelin, a multilayered insulating membrane formed by oligodendrocytes. Most of the myelin is generated early in development, in a process thought to be error-free, resulting in the generation of long-lasting stable membrane structures. Here, we explored structural and dynamic changes in CNS myelin during development by combining ultrastructural analysis of mouse optic nerves by serial block face scanning electron microscopy and confocal time lapse imaging in the zebrafish spinal cord. We found that myelin undergoes extensive ultrastructural changes during early postnatal development. Myelin degeneration profiles were engulfed and phagocytosed by microglia in a phosphatidylserine-dependent manner. In contrast, retractions of entire myelin sheaths occurred independently of microglia and involved uptake of myelin by the oligodendrocyte itself. Our findings show that the generation of myelin early in development is an inaccurate process associated with aberrant ultrastructural features that requires substantial refinement.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience