Cholesterol biosynthesis defines oligodendrocyte precursor heterogeneity between brain and spinal cord

Luipa Khandker, Marisa A. Jeffries, Yun Juan Chang, Marie L. Mather, Angelina V. Evangelou, Jennifer N. Bourne, Azadeh K. Tafreshi, Isis M. Ornelas, Ozlem Bozdagi-Gunal, Wendy B. Macklin, Teresa L. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Brain and spinal cord oligodendroglia have distinct functional characteristics, and cell-autonomous loss of individual genes can result in different regional phenotypes. However, a molecular basis for these distinctions is unknown. Using single-cell analysis of oligodendroglia during developmental myelination, we demonstrate that brain and spinal cord precursors are transcriptionally distinct, defined predominantly by cholesterol biosynthesis. We further identify the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) as a major regulator promoting cholesterol biosynthesis in oligodendroglia. Oligodendroglia-specific loss of mTOR decreases cholesterol biosynthesis in both the brain and the spinal cord, but mTOR loss in spinal cord oligodendroglia has a greater impact on cholesterol biosynthesis, consistent with more pronounced deficits in developmental myelination. In the brain, mTOR loss results in a later adult myelin deficit, including oligodendrocyte death, spontaneous demyelination, and impaired axonal function, demonstrating that mTOR is required for myelin maintenance in the adult brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110423
JournalCell Reports
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


  • cholesterol
  • mTOR
  • myelin
  • myelin maintenance
  • myelination
  • oligodendrocyte
  • oligodendrocyte heterogeneity
  • oligodendrocyte precursor
  • single-cell sequencing


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