Endogenous metabolites play essential roles in the regulation of cellular identity and activity. Here we have investigated the process of oligodendrocyte precursor cell (OPC) differentiation, a process that becomes limiting during progressive stages of demyelinating diseases, including multiple sclerosis, using mass-spectrometry-based metabolomics. Levels of taurine, an aminosulfonic acid possessing pleotropic biological activities and broad tissue distribution properties, were found to be significantly elevated (∼20-fold) during the course of oligodendrocyte differentiation and maturation. When added exogenously at physiologically relevant concentrations, taurine was found to dramatically enhance the processes of drug-induced in vitro OPC differentiation and maturation. Mechanism of action studies suggest that the oligodendrocyte-differentiation-enhancing activities of taurine are driven primarily by its ability to directly increase available serine pools, which serve as the initial building block required for the synthesis of the glycosphingolipid components of myelin that define the functional oligodendrocyte cell state.
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We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the National Institutes of Health (Grants R01 GM114368-02, R24 EY017540-04, P30 MH062261-10, P01 DA026146-02, and 1S10OD16357).
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Beyer, B., Fang, M., Sadrian, B. et al. Metabolomics-based discovery of a metabolite that enhances oligodendrocyte maturation. Nat Chem Biol 14, 22–28 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/nchembio.2517
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