Neuron-Glial Antigen 2 (NG2) cells are a glial cell type tiled throughout the grey and white matter of the Central Nervous System (CNS). NG2 cells are known for their ability to differentiate into oligodendrocytes and are commonly referred to as oligodendrocyte precursor cells. However, recent investigations have begun to identify additional functions of NG2 cells in CNS health and pathology. NG2 cells form physical and functional connections with neurons and other glial cell types throughout the CNS, allowing them to monitor and respond to the neural environment. Growing evidence indicates that NG2 cells become reactive under pathological conditions, though their specific roles are only beginning to be elucidated. While reactive microglia and astrocytes are well-established contributors to neuroinflammation and the development of epilepsy following CNS infection, the dynamics of NG2 cells remain unclear. Therefore, we investigated NG2 cell reactivity in a viral-induced mouse model of temporal lobe epilepsy.
C57BL6/J mice were injected intracortically with Theiler’s Murine Encephalomyelitis 36 Virus (TMEV) or PBS. Mice were graded twice daily for seizures between 3–7 days post-injection (dpi). At 4 and 14 dpi, brains were fixed and stained for NG2, the microglia/macrophage marker IBA1, and the proliferation marker Ki-67. Confocal z-stacks were acquired in both the hippocampus and the overlying cortex. Total field areas stained by each cell marker and total field area of colocalized pixels between NG2 and Ki67 were compared between groups.
Both NG2 cells and microglia/macrophages displayed increased immunoreactivity and reactive morphologies in the hippocampus of TMEV-injected mice. While increased immunoreactivity for IBA1 was also present in the cortex, there was no significant change in NG2 immunoreactivity in the cortex following TMEV-infection. Colocalization analysis for NG2 and Ki-67 revealed a significant increase in overlap between NG2 and Ki-67 in the hippocampus of TMEV-injected mice at both timepoints, but no significant differences in cortex.
NG2 cells acquire a reactive phenotype and proliferate in response to TMEV-infection. These results suggest that NG2 cells alter their function in response to viral encephalopathy, making them potential targets to prevent the development of epilepsy following viral infection.