Indexed on: 02 Sep '11Published on: 02 Sep '11Published in: Development (Cambridge, England)
The majority of axons in the central nervous system (CNS) are eventually myelinated by oligodendrocytes, but whether the timing and extent of myelination in vivo reflect intrinsic properties of oligodendrocytes, or are regulated by axons, remains undetermined. Here, we use zebrafish to study CNS myelination at single-cell resolution in vivo. We show that the large caliber Mauthner axon is the first to be myelinated (shortly before axons of smaller caliber) and that the presence of supernumerary large caliber Mauthner axons can profoundly affect myelination by single oligodendrocytes. Oligodendrocytes that typically myelinate just one Mauthner axon in wild type can myelinate multiple supernumerary Mauthner axons. Furthermore, oligodendrocytes that exclusively myelinate numerous smaller caliber axons in wild type can readily myelinate small caliber axons in addition to the much larger caliber supernumerary Mauthner axons. These data indicate that single oligodendrocytes can myelinate diverse axons and that their myelinating potential is actively regulated by individual axons.