Glycolytic oligodendrocytes maintain myelin and long-term axonal integrity.
Neuronal activity demands large amounts of energy and previous work suggests that astrocytes can provide substrates that help power neurons. This paper extends that concept to another type of glial cell, oligodendrocytes, which make the myelin sheaths around axons. Nave’s group genetically knocked out a key portion of the mitochondrial electron transport chain in oligodendrocytes, thus destroying the cells’ usual way of extracting energy. In this situation, the oligodendrocytes utilized a different metabolic pathway for deriving energy, albeit inefficiently; its end product, lactate (which still contains high-energy electrons), passed to the underlying nerve cell. The work suggests a mechanism by which oligodendrocytes support nerve-cell survival and might help explain why nerve cells deteriorate when the myelin sheath is attacked in MS.