Classical studies of macroglial proliferation in muride rodents have provided conflicting evidence concerning the proliferating capabilities of oligodendrocytes and microglia. Furthermore, little information has been obtained in other mammalian orders and very little is known about glial cell proliferation and differentiation in the subclass Metatheria although valuable knowledge may be obtained from the protracted period of central nervous system maturation in these forms. Thus, we have studied the proliferative capacity of phenotypically identified brain stem oligodendrocytes by tritiated thymidine radioautography and have compared it with known features of oligodendroglial differentiation as well as with proliferation of microglia in the opossum Didelphis marsupialis. We have detected a previously undescribed ephemeral, regionally heterogeneous proliferation of oligodendrocytes expressing the actin-binding, ensheathment-related protein 2'3'-cyclic nucleotide 3'-phosphodiesterase (CNPase), that is not necessarily related to the known regional and temporal heterogeneity of expression of CNPase in cell bodies. On the other hand, proliferation of microglia tagged by the binding of Griffonia simplicifolia B4 isolectin, which recognizes an alpha-D-galactosyl-bearing glycoprotein of the plasma membrane of macrophages/microglia, is known to be long lasting, showing no regional heterogeneity and being found amongst both ameboid and differentiated ramified cells, although at different rates. The functional significance of the proliferative behavior of these differentiated cells is unknown but may provide a low-grade cell renewal in the normal brain and may be augmented under pathological conditions.