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J Neurocytol. 1990 Feb;19(1):11-28.

Macromolecular structure of axon membrane and action potential conduction in myelin deficient and myelin deficient heterozygote rat optic nerves.

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Department of Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06510.


The macromolecular structure of the axon membrane in optic nerves from 25-day-old male littermate control and myelin deficient (md) rats and 16-month-old md heterozygotic rats was examined with quantitative freeze-fracture electron microscopy. The axon membrane of control optic nerves displayed an asymmetrical partitioning of intramembranous particles (IMPs); P-fracture faces of myelinated internodal axon membrane were more particulate than those of pre-myelinated axons (approximately 1600 v 1100 microns-2, respectively), while relatively few IMPs (approximately 150 microns-2) were present on external faces (E-faces) of internodal or pre-myelinated axon membrane. Amyelinated axons of md optic nerves also exhibited an asymmetrical partitioning of IMPs; protoplasmic membrane face (P-face) IMP densities, taken as a group, exhibited a wide range (approximately 600-2300 microns-2) and, in most regions, E-faces displayed a relatively low IMP density (approximately 175 microns-2). Axons of greater than 0.4 microns diameter exhibited significantly greater mean P-face IMP density than axons less than 0.4 microns diameter. Aggregations of E-face IMPs (approximately 350 microns-2) were occasionally observed along amyelinated axon membrane from md optic nerves. Optic nerves from md heterozygote rats exhibit myelin mosaicism, permitting examination of myelinated and amyelinated axon membrane along the same tract. The axon membrane exhibits different ultrastructure in these two domains. Myelinated internodal axon membrane from md heterozygote optic nerves exhibits similar P- and E-face IMP densities to those of control internodal axolemma (approximately 1800 and 140 microns-2, respectively). Amyelinated axons in the heterozygote exhibit a membrane structure similar to amyelinated axons in md optic nerve. P-face IMP density of large diameter (greater than 0.4 microns) amyelinated axons from md heterozygote optic nerves is significantly greater than that of small calibre (less than 0.4 microns) axons. In most regions, amyelinated axon membrane exhibits a relatively low E-face IMP density (approximately 200 microns-2); however, focal aggregations (approximately 400 microns-2) of E-face particles are present. Electrophysiological recordings demonstrate that amyelinated axons in md optic nerves support the conduction of action potentials. Compound action potentials in md optic nerves exhibit a monophasic configuration, even at 20-days postnatal, similar to that of pre-myelinated optic nerve of 7-day-old normal rats. Moreover, conduction velocities in the amyelinated 20-day-old md optic nerve are similar to those displayed by pre-myelinated axons from 7-day-old optic nerves.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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