Sex-specific GABAB receptor signaling in oligodendrocyte lineage cells for remyelination

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most prevalent autoimmune disease characterised by the destruction of the myelin sheath in the central nervous system (CNS), which disproportionately affects women. While the exact cause of MS remains unclear, the inability to generate new myelin is a key suspected factor.

In the CNS, myelin is produced exclusively by oligodendrocytes derived from precursor cells (OPCs). GABA, a prominent inhibitory neurotransmitter, stimulates OPC growth, migration and differentiation through GABAA and GABAB receptors. In MS patients, GABAergic function in the CNS is impaired, with loss of interneurons and reduced GABA levels. This interneuron loss may be linked to elevated levels of TWEAK (tumour necrosis factor-related weak inducer of apoptosis) in the plasma of MS patients. Our recent study suggests that TWEAK released by OPCs as a result of GABAB receptor activation triggers interneuron apoptosis. Strikingly, this TWEAK pathway benefits males but harms females in neonatal hypoxic-ischemic injury.

Preliminary results show that removing GABAB receptors from OPCs increases OPC/OL density of female but not male mice, during remyelination in a demyelination model. This suggests that manipulating GABABR/TWEAK signaling may help women with MS. Further research may identify novel interventions with sex-specific implications.


Project lead

Dr. rer. nat. Xianshu Bai

Saarland University
Center for Integrative Physiology and Molecular Medicine (CIPMM)

ORCID: 0000-0002-4758-1645

Curriculum Vitae



  • Lipao Fang
    Saarland University
    Center for Integrative Physiology and Molecular Medicine (CIPMM)

Important publications

  1. Bai X*, Zhao N, Koupourtidou C, Fang LP, Schwarz V, Caudal LC, Zhao R, Hirrlinger J, Walz W, Bian S, Huang W, Ninkovic J, Kirchhoff F, Scheller A* (2023). After traumatic brain injury oligodendrocytes regain a plastic phenotype and can become astrocytes. Dev Cell. 58: 1153-1169. Selected as ‘DPG - Paper of the Month’ Juli 2023.
  2. Fang LP, Bai X (2023). Implications of Olig2 silencing in oligodendrocyte precursor cells. Neural Regen Res.18: 2649-2650.
  3. Fang LP, Bai X (2023). Oligodendrocyte precursor cells: the multitaskers in the brain. Pflügers Archiv. DOI:10.1007/s00424-023-02837-5.
  4. Fang LP, Liu Q, Meyer E, Huang W, Scheller A, Kirchhoff F*, Bai X* (2023). A subset of OPCs do not express Olig2 during development which can be increased in the adult by brain injuries and complex motor learning. Glia. 71: 415-430.
  5. Fang LP, Zhao N, Caudal LC, Chang HF, Zhao R, Lin CH, Hainz N, Meier C, Bettler B, Huang W, Scheller A, Kirchhoff F*, Bai X* (2022). Impaired bidirectional communication between interneurons and oligodendrocyte precursor cells affects social cognitive behavior. Nat Commun 13: 1394. Selected as editor’s highlights in the ‘From brain to behavior’ section.