April 20, 2021

Single-cell Sequencing Reveals Brain/Spinal Cord Oligodendrocyte Precursor Heterogeneity and Requirement for mTOR in Cholesterol Biosynthesis and Myelin Maintenance

Brain and spinal cord oligodendroglia have distinct functional characteristics, and cell autonomous loss of individual genes can result in different regional phenotypes. However, sequencing studies to date have not revealed distinctions between brain and spinal cord oligodendroglia. Using single-cell analysis of oligodendroglia during myelination, we demonstrate that brain and spinal cord precursors are transcriptionally distinct, defined predominantly by cholesterol biosynthesis. We further identify mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) as a major regulator promoting cholesterol biosynthesis in oligodendroglia. Oligodendroglial-specific loss of mTOR compromises cholesterol biosynthesis in both the brain and spinal cord. Importantly, mTOR loss has a greater impact on cholesterol biosynthesis in spinal cord oligodendroglia that corresponds with more pronounced developmental deficits. However, loss of mTOR in brain oligodendroglia ultimately results in oligodendrocyte death, spontaneous demyelination, and impaired axonal function, demonstrating that mTOR is required for myelin maintenance in the adult brain.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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