In the CNS, myelination and remyelination depend on the successful progression and maturation of oligodendroglial lineage cells, including proliferation and differentiation of oligodendroglial progenitor cells (OPCs). Previous studies have reported that Sox2 transiently regulates oligodendrocyte (OL) differentiation in the embryonic and perinatal spinal cord and appears dispensable for myelination in the postnatal spinal cord. However, the role of Sox2 in OL development in the brain has yet to be defined. We now report that Sox2 is an essential positive regulator of developmental myelination in the postnatal murine brain of both sexes. Stage-specific paradigms of genetic disruption demonstrated that Sox2 regulated brain myelination by coordinating upstream OPC population supply and downstream OL differentiation. Transcriptomic analyses further supported a crucial role of Sox2 in brain developmental myelination. Consistently, oligodendroglial Sox2-deficient mice developed severe tremors and ataxia, typical phenotypes indicative of hypomyelination, and displayed severe impairment of motor function and prominent deficits of brain OL differentiation and myelination persisting into the later CNS developmental stages. We also found that Sox2 was required for efficient OPC proliferation and expansion and OL regeneration during remyelination in the adult brain and spinal cord. Together, our genetic evidence reveals an essential role of Sox2 in brain myelination and CNS remyelination, and suggests that manipulation of Sox2 and/or Sox2-mediated downstream pathways may be therapeutic in promoting CNS myelin repair.
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Promoting myelin formation and repair has translational significance in treating myelin-related neurological disorders, such as periventricular leukomalacia and multiple sclerosis in which brain developmental myelin formation and myelin repair are severely affected, respectively. In this report, analyses of a series of genetic conditional knock-out systems targeting different oligodendrocyte stages reveal a previously unappreciated role of Sox2 in coordinating upstream proliferation and downstream differentiation of oligodendroglial lineage cells in the mouse brain during developmental myelination and CNS remyelination. Our study points to the potential of manipulating Sox2 and its downstream pathways to promote oligodendrocyte regeneration and CNS myelin repair.