The Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research
at the Cruciform Building
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Prof. William D. Richardson FMedSci  FRS

- 020 7679 6729 /

Central nervous system glia

We are investigating the diversity and functions of glial cells in the central nervous system (CNS).

Glial cells (astrocytes and oligodendrocytes) outnumber neurons in the CNS, yet there remain major questions regarding their developmental origins, functional roles and even how many different subtypes of glia there are. This fundamental information is needed if we are to stand a chance of understanding the workings of the brain and spinal cord.

Over the past several years we have invested heavily in mouse transgenesis, to generate transgenic lines that will be useful for studies of CNS glial cells in vivo. For example, we now have a battery of mouse lines in which different subtypes of glia express fluorescent marker proteins (e.g. GFP or tdTomato) and/or Cre recombinase. We are using these to map the origins of glial cells in the embryonic CNS and, in combination with electrophysiological recording and behavioural tests, to try to gain insights into their electrical properties and their roles in neural plasticity e.g. motor skills learning.

Selected publications

Young, K.M., Psachoulia, K., Tripathi, R.B., Dunn, S.-J., Cossell, L., Attwell, D., Tohyama, K. and Richardson, W.D. (2013). Oligodendrocyte dynamics in the healthy adult CNS: evidence for myelin remodelling. Neuron 77, 873-885.

Tsai, H.-H., Li, H., Fuentealba, L., Molofsky, A.V., Taveira Marques, R., Zhuang, H., Tenney, A., Murnen, A.T., Fancy, S.P.J., Merkle, F., Kessaris, N., , A., Richardson, W.D.* and Rowitch, D.H.* (2012). Regional astrocyte allocation regulates CNS synaptogenesis and repair. Science 337, 358-362. * joint senior authors

Richardson, W.D., Young, K.M., Tripathi, R.B. and McKenzie, I. (2011). NG2-glia as multipotent neural stem cells: fact or fantasy? Neuron 70, 661-673.

Li, H., Paes de Faria, J., Andrew, P. Nitarska, J. and Richardson, W.D. (2011). Phosphorylation regulates OLIG2 cofactor choice and the motor neuron-oligodendrocyte fate switch. Neuron 69, 918-929. [highlighted by: Gaber, Z.B. and Novitch, B.G. (2011). Neuron 69, 833-835. also Yates, D. (2011). Nature Reviews Neuroscience 12, 248-249.] F1000 must read

Rivers, L.E., Young, K.M., Rizzi, M., Jamen, F., Psachoulia, K., Wade, A., Kessaris, N. and Richardson, W.D. (2008). PDGFRA/ NG2-positive glia generate myelinating oligodendrocytes and piriform projection neurons in adult mice. Nature Neuroscience 11, 1392-1401. (highlighted by: Kang, S.H. and Bergles, D.E. (2008). Nat. Neurosci. 11, 1365-1367.)


Personal website:

Academic Career

2012-present Director, WIBR

2013 FRS

2010 FMedSci

2001-2007 Head of Dept of Biology

1999-2012 Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research, UCL

1993-1999 MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, UCL

1985-2001 Dept of Biology UCL

1982-1985 National Institute for Medical Research, London

1978-1982 National Institutes of Health, USA

1978 PhD (Biophysics) King's College London

1973 BSc (Physics) Manchester University


2013-2018 Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award " Transcriptional control of CNS myelination in development and maturity"

2012-2017 European Research Council Advanced Grant "MOTOGLIA: axoglial synapses, adult myelination and motor skills learning"

2008-2013 National Institutes of Health “Cellular and genetic origins of astrocytes” (with David Rowitch, UCSF; Charles D Stiles, Harvard Med Sch; Ben Barres, Stanford U)

2008-2013 Medical Research Council Programme "Stem and progenitor cells of the postnatal CNS" (with Nicoletta Kessaris, WIBR)

Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research - The Cruciform Building - University College London
Gower Street - London - WC1E 6BT -------------------------- Telephone: +44 (0)20 7679 2000 Copyright © 1999-2008 UCL