Retinoic acid treated P19 embryonal carcinoma cells differentiate into oligodendrocytes capable of myelination

W. A. Staines, J. Craig, K. Reuhl, M. W. McBurney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Retinoic acid treatment of P19 embryonal carcinoma cells induces their differentiation into cultures containing neurons and astrocytes. We present two lines of experimentation indicating that oligodendrocytes also develop from retinoic acid-treated P19 cells. We isolated an immortal cell line from retinoic acid-treated P19 cell cultures whose proliferation is dependent upon epidermal growth factor. Upon removal of the growth factor these cells differentiate into both astrocytes and oligodendrocytes as determined by immunostaining with antibodies to the astrocyte marker glial fibrillar acidic protein and the oligodendrocyte markers, myelin associated glycoprotein and 2',3'-cyclic nucleotide 3'-phosphodiesterase. This cell line appears to be a bi-potential glial precursor. We also found that oligodendrocytes developed directly from P19 cells when retinoic acid-treated cells were transplanted into the brains of neonatal rat pups. Cells that developed into oligodendrocytes migrated into fiber bundles up to several millimeters from the site of the graft. These P19-derived oligodendrocytes appeared to myelinate axons from host neurons. Thus, retinoic acid-treated P19 cells differentiate into neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, the three cell types that normally develop from embryonic neuroectoderm, indicating that these cell cultures differentiate in a fashion closely resembling that of embryonic neuroectoderm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)845-853
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)


  • Astrocytes
  • Brain transplantation
  • Cell culture
  • Differentiation
  • Neurons
  • Stem cells


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