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Glia. 1994 Nov;12(3):180-95.

Developmental changes in the number, size, and orientation of GFAP-positive cells in the CA1 region of rat hippocampus.

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University of Cologne, Department of Neurophysiology, Köln, Germany.


Changes in extracellular potassium concentration as measured with ion-selective microelectrodes revealed abnormally large accumulations in the hippocampus during postnatal development. While rises in [K+]o during stimulation of the Schaffer collaterals were limited to about 12 mM in adult animals, identical stimulations elicited rises to levels as large as 18 mM in juveniles. Since astrocytes are believed to play an important role in K+ homeostasis, we studied the postnatal development of astrocytes in the CA1 region of rat hippocampus in four age groups using a polyclonal antibody against glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP). The main proliferation of GFAP-positive cells (GFAPpc) occurred in all laminae between postnatal days 8 and 16. The number of GFAP-positive astrocytes per unit area was reached in stratum lacunosum-moleculare and stratum oriens at about 2 weeks and in stratum radiatum at about 3 weeks of age. During further development--at the age of 24 days--the orientation of individual astrocytes in stratum radiatum became polar with an orientation almost perpendicular to stratum pyramidale. This was revealed by an analysis based on determination of the quotients between the angular orientation of the processes of single individual GFAP-positive cells. When the crossing points of all glial processes over vertical and horizontal grid lines were determined and respective quotients evaluated, the same development towards a perpendicular orientation of astrocytes was noted in stratum radiatum. The same approach revealed a transient orientation parallel to the fissure in stratum lacunosum-moleculare around day 24. Camera lucida drawings of GFAPpc in stratum radiatum revealed that astrocytes became larger during the first three postnatal weeks, followed by a reduction of various parameters (e.g., cell extension, branching pattern) until adulthood. The observed developmental changes of astroglial cells may contribute to the known delayed maturation of potassium regulation in rat hippocampus.

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