Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Anatomy & Neurobiology

First Advisor

Babette Fuss


The formation of the myelin sheath is a crucial step during development because it enables fast and efficient propagation of signals within the limited space of the mammalian central nervous system. During the process of myelination, oligodendrocytes actively interact with the extracellular matrix (ECM). These interactions are considered crucial for proper and timely completion of the myelin sheath. However, the exact regulatory circuits involved in the signaling events that occur between the ECM and oligodendrocytes are currently not fully understood. Therefore, in this dissertation we investigated the role of a known integrator of cell-ECM signaling, namely, focal adhesion kinase (FAK), during oligodendrocyte morphological maturation in vivo and in vitro. Conditional and inducible FAK-knockout mice (Fakflox/flox: PLP/CreERT mice) were generated to observe the effect of FAK loss on myelination in vivo. The role of FAK during post-migratory premyelinating oligodendrocyte morphological maturation was explored in vitro using primary rat oligodendrocyte cultures in combination with siRNA or inhibitor treatment. When inducing FAK knockout just prior to and during active myelination in vivo, we observed a significant reduction in the number of myelinated fibers following initial myelination. In addition, our data revealed a decreased number of primary processes extending from oligodendrocyte cell bodies at this stage of development under induction of FAK knockout. In contrast, myelination appeared normal on postnatal day 28. Our in vitro data demonstrated that reduction of FAK expression or activity affected the oligodendrocyte process network maturation in a way that is unique to the ECM substrate present. More specifically, our data suggest that FAK restrains the expansion of the oligodendrocyte process network in the presence of fibronectin and promotes expansion of the oligodendrocyte process network in the presence of laminin-2. We showed that the FAK-mediated restriction of oligodendrocyte morphological maturation is tightly developmentally regulated; being highly active during early stages of post-migratory premyelinating oligodendrocyte morphological maturation but greatly diminished at the later stages of oligodendrocyte development. Thus, our data suggest that FAK controls the efficiency and timing of CNS myelination during its initial stages, at least in part, by regulating oligodendrocyte process network morphological maturation.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2010