Neuron-glia antigen 2-expressing glial cells (NG2 glia) serve as oligodendrocyte progenitors during development and adulthood. However, recent studies have shown that these cells represent not only a transitional stage along the oligodendroglial lineage, but also constitute a specific cell type endowed with typical properties and functions. Namely, NG2 glia (or subsets of NG2 glia) establish physical and functional interactions with neurons and other central nervous system (CNS) cell types, that allow them to constantly monitor the surrounding neuropil. In addition to operating as sensors, NG2 glia have features that are expected for active modulators of neuronal activity, including the expression and release of a battery of neuromodulatory and neuroprotective factors. Consistently, cell ablation strategies targeting NG2 glia demonstrate that, beyond their role in myelination, these cells contribute to CNS homeostasis and development. In this review, we summarize and discuss the advancements achieved over recent years toward the understanding of such functions, and propose novel approaches for further investigations aimed at elucidating the multifaceted roles of NG2 glia.
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