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Anat Embryol (Berl). 1985;172(2):195-204.

On the development of the pyramidal tract in the rat. I. The morphology of the growth zone.


An electron microscopic study has been made of the tip of the growing pyramidal tract in the rat. This part of the developing bundle, designated as the growth-zone, has been examined at the levels of the medulla oblongata and the third spinal segment at embryonic day 20 and on the day of birth, respectively. The tip of the pyramidal tract contains, apart from axons, numerous larger profiles. An analysis of serial sections revealed that these represent either growth cones or preterminal periodic varicosities. In the growth cones of the corticospinal axons three zones can be distinguished: a proximal "tubular", an intermediate "vesicular-reticular" and a distal "fine-granular" zone. As distinct from the classical descriptions the corticospinal growth cones end in a single or, less frequently, in two more or less parallel filopodia. None of the growth cones analyzed in this study showed multiple filopodia radiating from the terminal expansion as observed at the end of growing axons in tissue cultures and in developing spinal fibre tracts of nonmammalian vertebrates. As regards the varicosities, most of these structures are characterized by a light cytoplasmic density. Others, however, contain a denser cytoplasm, closely resembling that of the vesiculo-reticular part of growth cones.

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