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J Comp Neurol. 1988 Dec 1;278(1):34-46.

Cell death in suboptic necrotic centers of chick embryo diencephalon and their topographic relationship with the earliest optic fiber fascicles.

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Departamento de Ciencias Morfológicas y Biología Celular y Animal, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Extremadura, Badajoz, Spain.


The structural features of suboptic necrotic centers (SONCs) in the floor of the chick embryo diencephalon were studied. These necrotic areas were observed lateral to the prospective zone of the optic chiasm through developmental stages 14 to 24. The relationship between SONCs and the earliest optic fiber fascicles also was studied in an attempt to determine the possible significance of these cell death areas in the mechanism of optic pathway development. In SONCs, healthy neuroepithelial cells contain primary lysosomes and phagocytose fragments of dead cells. Discrete regions within the cytoplasm of some cells show electron-transparent vacuoles in contact with dense contents of ruptured lytic bodies. The cytoplasm of dying cells and dead cell fragments are notably electron dense, with numerous secondary lysosomes and electron-transparent vacuoles. These observations are interpreted on the assumption that after autophagic processes, condensation and fragmentation take place in dying cells of the SONCs. In the ventricular lumen adjacent to the SONCs, numerous more or less spherical bodies are observed that appear to be shed from the tip of the cells constituting the SONCs. Three different types of intraventricular bodies can be distinguished: loose, moderately dense, and highly dense. The first type appears to originate from apical portions of cells that undergo autolytic processes. Moderately dense fragments are interpreted as originating from dying cells in which the cytoplasm is undergoing condensation. Finally, highly dense intraventricular bodies appear to be fragments of dead cells that are shed into the ventricular lumen. SONCs separate the prospective area of the optic chiasm from lateral regions of the diencephalic floor. Extracellular spaces are poorly developed within the wall of the SONCs, whereas the neuroepithelium of the presumptive optic chiasm and regions located rostral and caudal to SONCs show abundant and extensive extracellular spaces. These are bounded by long marginal processes of neuroepithelial cells. Sagittal sections of embryonic heads at stages 22-24 reveal optic fiber fascicles penetrating the SONCs asymmetrically, as they are found only in its caudal half. These observations suggest that the SONCs function as doorways made of compact neuroepithelium, to be traversed by the earliest optic fibers before they reach the middle zone of the floor of the diencephalon through which they travel to the contralateral optic tract within large extracellular spaces.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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