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J Neurocytol. 1998 Jun;27(5):329-45.

Distribution of mitochondria within Müller cells--I. Correlation with retinal vascularization in different mammalian species.

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Paul Flechsig Institute for Brain Research, Leipzig University, Germany.


The distribution of mitochondria within retinal glial (Müller) cells and neurons was studied by electron microscopy, by confocal microscopy of a mitochondrial dye and by immunocytochemical demonstration of the mitochondrial enzyme GABA transaminase (GABA-T). We studied sections and enzymatically dissociated cells from adult vascularized (human, pig and rat) and avascular or pseudangiotic (guinea-pig and rabbit) mammalian retinae. The following main observations were made. (1) Müller cells in adult euangiotic (totally vascularized) retinae contain mitochondria throughout their length. (2) Müller cells from the periphery of avascular retinae display mitochondria only within the sclerad-most end of Müller cell processes. (3) Müller cells from the vascularized retinal rim around the optic nerve head in guinea-pigs contain mitochondria throughout their length. (4) Müller cells from the peripapillar myelinated region ('medullary rays') of the pseudangiotic rabbit retina contain mitochondria up to their soma. In living dissociated Müller cells from guinea-pig retina, there was no indication of low intracellular pH where the mitochondria were clustered. These data support the hypothesis that Müller cells display mitochondria only at locations of their cytoplasm where the local O2 pressure (pO2) exceeds a certain threshold. In contrast, retinal ganglion cells of guinea-pig and rabbit retinae display many mitochondria although the local pO2 in the inner (vitread) retinal layers has been reported to be extremely low. It is probable that the alignment of mitochondria and the expression of mitochondrial enzymes are regulated by different mechanisms in various types of retinal neurons and glial cells.

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