Displacement of synaptic terminals from regenerating motoneurons by microglial cells

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Axonal reaction of motoneurons has been shown to be usually accompanied by an early and brisk proliferation of perineuronal microgliacytes. In order to clarify the real nature of such newly formed microglial satellites and their fine structural relationships to the regenerating nerve cells, facial nuclei from bilateral preparations were examined by light and electron microscopy 4 days after cutting the right facial nerve in rats. On the transected side, microgliacytes could often be observed closely adjoining motoneuron perikarya and main dendrites over long distances, and thereby removing morphologically intact synaptic terminals from the neuronal surface membranes. This displacement of boutons by microglial cells is probably preceded by a loosening of the synaptic contacts due to some unknown membrane changes in the regenerating motoneurons. The functional significance of this considerable deafferentation process could not be entirely elucidated.