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Brain Res. 1991 May 24;549(2):253-9.

Elemental composition and water content of myelinated axons and glial cells in rat central nervous system.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Medical School, SUNY, Stony Brook 11794-8480.


The distribution of elements (e.g. Na, Cl, K) and water in CNS cells is unknown. Therefore, electron probe X-ray microanalysis (EPMA) was used to measure water content and concentrations (mmol/kg dry or wet weight) of Na, Mg, P, S, Cl, K and Ca in morphological compartments of myelinated axons and glial cells from rat optic nerve and cervical spinal cord white matter. Axons in both CNS regions exhibited similar water content (approximately 90%), and relatively high concentrations (wet and dry weight) of K with low Na and Ca levels. The K content of axons was related to diameter, i.e. small axons in spinal cord and optic nerve had significantly less (25-50%) K than larger diameter axons from the same CNS region. The elemental composition of spinal cord mitochondria was similar to corresponding axoplasm, whereas the water content (75%) of these organelles was substantially lower than that of axoplasm. In glial cell cytoplasm of both CNS areas, P and K (wet and dry weight) were the most abundant elements and water content was approximately 75%. CNS myelin had predominantly high P levels and the lowest water content (33-55%) of any compartment measured. The results of this study demonstrate that each morphological compartment of CNS axons and glia exhibits a characteristic elemental composition and water content which might be related to the structure and function of that neuronal region.

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