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J Neurocytol. 1992 Jul;21(7):530-44.

The origin and development of retinal astrocytes in the mouse.

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Department of Physiology, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia.


Astrocytes, a class of glia which appear in the mammalian retina late in development, have been postulated either to originate in situ from Müller cells or extra-retinally from the optic stalk epithelium, only subsequently invading the eye. The site of origin and the developmental characteristics of retinal astrocytes were examined in the mouse, a species not previously studied for this purpose. Sections of normal eyes and stalks at different ages were examined. Cells positive for glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) were first observed at post-conceptional day 17 at the optic disc end of the stalk. From this site, the GFAP-positive cells migrated into and across the retina at a rate of approximately 290 microns per day, reaching its edge by post-conceptional day 28. While migrating across the retina, the astrocytes progressively increased in size and morphological complexity, observations confirmed by measurement of their fractal dimension. Over the same period, a wave of differentiation swept along the stalk in the cranial direction. Further evidence that retinal astrocytes are born outside the retina emerged when foetal hemiretinae with or without optic stalks were explanted to the chorioallantoic membrane of the chick. When examined one to twelve days later, no explant cultured without the optic stalk contained GFAP-positive astrocytes, while explants with the stalk left attached contained relatively normal numbers of astrocytes. We observed, using fluorescence confocal microscopy, that retinal astrocytes in the mouse as in the rat, associate predominantly with blood vessels, not axonal bundles. It was of interest to determine whether this class of glia is essential to the normal cytoarchitectural development of the neural retina. Morphological analysis of the explants revealed no observable differences in cytoarchitecture or in the timing of developmental events between retinae maturing with or without astrocytes. It was therefore concluded that astrocytes may not be essential to the normal structural development of the murine retina.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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