There is a long-standing controversy as to whether oligodendrocytes may be capable of cell division and thus contribute to remyelination. We recently published evidence that a subpopulation of myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)-expressing cells in the adult rat spinal cord co-expressed molecules previously considered to be restricted to oligodendrocyte progenitors [G. Li et al. (2002) Brain Pathol., 12, 463-471]. To further investigate the properties of MOG-expressing cells, anti-MOG-immunosorted cells were grown in culture and transplanted into acute demyelinating lesions. The immunosorting protocol yielded a cell preparation in which over 98% of the viable cells showed anti-MOG- and O1-immunoreactivity; 12-15% of the anti-MOG-immunosorted cells co-expressed platelet-derived growth factor alpha receptor (PDGFRalpha) or the A2B5-epitope. When cultured in serum-free medium containing EGF and FGF-2, 15-18% of the anti-MOG-immunosorted cells lost anti-MOG- and O1-immunoreactivity and underwent cell division. On removal of these growth factors, cells differentiated into oligodendrocytes, or astrocytes and Schwann cells when the differentiation medium contained BMPs. Transplantation of anti-MOG-immunosorted cells into areas of acute demyelination immediately after isolation resulted in the generation of remyelinating oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells. Our studies indicate that the adult rat CNS contains a significant number of oligodendrocyte precursors that express MOG and galactocerebroside, molecules previously considered restricted to mature oligodendrocytes. This may explain why myelin-bearing oligodendrocytes were considered capable of generating remyelinating cells. Our study also provides evidence that the adult oligodendrocyte progenitor can be considered as a source of the Schwann cells that remyelinate demyelinated CNS axons following concurrent destruction of oligodendrocytes and astrocytes.