Cells dissociated from the cerebral white matter of immature rats were maintained in monolayer culture. Treatment with platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) caused a large increase in the numbers of “O2A” oligodendroglial precursor cells (which bind the monoclonal antibody A2B5) and subsequently in the numbers of galactocerebroside (galC)- positive oligodendroglia. A2B5-negative “pre-O2A cells” in cerebral white matter cultures in which O2A cells and oligodendroglia had been killed by antibody-dependent complement-mediated cytolysis were induced by PDGF to proliferate and to differentiate into O2A cells and subsequently into oligodendroglia and type 2 astroglia. The most mature pre-O2A phenotype in these cultures was a small, round, process-bearing cell which expressed vimentin but not glial fibrillary acidic protein or galC. Cells of this phenotype were not observed upon PDGF treatment of immature rat optic nerve monolayer cultures from which O2A cells and oligodendrocytes had been depleted, and PDGF also failed to elicit the accumulation of O2A cells and oligodendroglia in such cultures.