BACKGROUND: Chondroitin sulphate proteoglycan (NG2) expressing cells, morphologically characterized by multi-branched processes and small cell bodies, are the 4th commonest cell population of non-neuronal cell type in the central nervous system (CNS). They can interact with nodes of Ranvier, receive synaptic input, generate action potential and respond to some pathological stimuli, but the function of the cells is still unclear. We assumed the NG2 cells may play an active role in neuropathogenesis and aimed to determine if NG2 cells could sense and response to the alterations in the axonal contents caused by disruption of neurofilament light subunit (NFL) expression. RESULTS: In the early neuropathological development stage, our study showed that the diameter of axons of upper motor neurons of NFL-/- mice decreased significantly while the thickness of their myelin sheath increased remarkably. Although there was an obvious morphological distortion in axons with occasionally partial demyelination, no obvious changes in expression of myelin proteins was detected. Parallel to these changes in the axons and their myelination, the processes of NG2 cells were disconnected from the nodes of Ranvier and extended further, suggesting that these cells in the spinal cord white matter could sense the alteration in axonal contents caused by disruption of NFL expression before astrocytic and microglial activation. CONCLUSION: The structural configuration determined by the NFL gene may be important for maintenance of normal morphology of myelinated axons. The NG2 cells might serve as an early sensor for the delivery of information from impaired neurons to the local environment.