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J Neurocytol. 1998 Nov;27(11):791-803.

Temporary colonization of the site of lesion by macrophages is a prelude to the arrival of regenerated axons in injured goldfish optic nerve.

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Neuroscience Group, Department of Optometry & Vision Sciences, UMIST, Manchester M60 1QD, UK.


In crushed goldfish optic nerve, regenerating axons cross the site of lesion within 10 days following injury. Some 30 days later, Schwann cells accumulate at the lesion, where they myelinate the new axons. In this study, we have used immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy to examine the cellular environment of the crush site prior to the establishment of Schwann cells in order to learn more about the early events that contribute to axonal regeneration. During the first week following injury, macrophages enter the site of lesion and efficiently phagocytose the debris. The infiltration of macrophages precedes the arrival of regenerating axons that abut and surround these phagocytes. Based on EM morphology and phagocytic capacity, macrophages of the type observed at the site of lesion are not present in the degenerating distal nerve segment, where debris clearance is shared between conventional microglia and astrocytes over a period of several weeks. During this period, axon bundles emerging distally from the injury zone become enwrapped by astrocyte processes, thereby re-establishing the characteristic fascicular cytoarchitecture of the optic nerve. The process of fasciculation also leads to the displacement of myelin debris to the margins of the fiber bundles, where it is trapped by the astrocytes. Our results suggest that the early robust appearance of macrophages at the lesion, and their effectiveness as phagocytes compared with the microglia distally, may contribute to the vigorous axonal regeneration across the crush, beyond which axons--excepting the pioneers--extend through newly formed debris-free channels delineated by astrocyte processes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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