A novel method has been developed for the preparation of nearly pure separate cultures of astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. The method is based on (a) the absence of viable neurons in cultures prepared from postnatal rat cerebra, (b) the stratification of astrocytes and oligodendrocytes in culture, and (c) the selective detachment of the overlying oligodendrocytes when exposed to sheer forces generated by shaking the cultures on an orbital shaker for 15--18 h at 37 degrees C. Preparations appear greater than 98% pure and contain approximately 1-2 x 10(7) viable cells (20--40 mg of cell protein). Three methods were used to characterize these two culture t ypes. First, electron microscopic examination was used to identify the cells in each preparation (mixed and separated cultures of astrocytes and oligodendrocytes) and to assess the purity of each preparation. Second, two oligodendroglial cell markers, 2',3'-cyclic nucleotide 3'-phosphohydrolase (EC and glycerol phosphate dehydrogenase (EC were monitored. Third, the regulation of cyclic AMP accumulation in each culture type was examined. In addition to these studies, we examined the influence of brain extract and dibutyryl cAMP on the gross morphology and ultrastructure of each preparation. These agents induced astroglial process formation without any apparent morphological effect on oligodendrocytes. Collectively, the results indicate that essentially pure cultures of astrocytes and of oligodendrocytes can be prepared and maintained. These preparations should significantly aid in efforts to examine the biochemistry, physiology, and pharmacology of these two major classes of central nervous system cells.

This content is only available as a PDF.