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J Neurocytol. 1990 Dec;19(6):883-98.

Relations between axons and oligodendroglial cells during initial myelination. II. The individual axon.

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Department of Anatomy, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.


Axo-glial relations in the ventral funiculus of the spinal cord (SC) and in the corpus callosum (CC) of the cat were examined by electron microscopy during initial myelination. In addition to random transverse and longitudinal sections from several stages, two series of sections were studied. As a first step in myelination the axons become ensheathed by one to three uncompacted glial lamellae (E-sheaths). E-sheaths present a length range from less than 5 microns to 149 microns (SC) or to 93 microns (CC). E-sheaths are more frequent along SC-axons than CC-axons, and the mean E-sheath is 3.3-fold longer in the former compared to the latter. In both areas naked axon portions occur between successive E-sheaths, but these gaps are insufficient to allow elongation of all short E-sheaths into long ones. Sheaths composed of mixed compacted (M-sheaths) and uncompacted segments have a length range of 66-212 microns in the SC and 66-171 microns in the CC. In relation to the undifferentiated terminations of E-sheaths or mixed E/M-sheaths, undercoated axolemmal domains are always lacking. Fully compacted sheaths were not found in the series from the SC. In the CC, 141-212 microns long compact sheaths were found, with tight axoglial junctions at their terminations. Axolemmal domains with a 'nodal' undercoating occur in relation to some of these terminations. In both areas, individual developing axons present a chaotic mixture of naked, ensheathed and myelinated portions; bulges with clusters of vesiculotubular profiles are frequent along naked and ensheathed axonal portions, particularly in the SC. The axon diameter is clearly larger in myelinated than in naked portions of the same axon. On the basis of these results, we propose that the early glial sheaths of developing CNS axons actively elongate and undergo extensive remodelling before compaction. The maximal length of uncompacted E-sheaths, and the sheath length at which axoglial junctions and nodes of Ranvier form, are markedly different in the two areas.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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