Cajal’s contribution to the knowledge of the neuronal cell nucleus
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- Lafarga, M., Casafont, I., Bengoechea, R. et al. Chromosoma (2009) 118: 437. doi:10.1007/s00412-009-0212-x
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In 1906, the Spanish neurobiologist Santiago Ramón y Cajal was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in recognition of his work on the structure of neurons and their connections. Cajal is commonly regarded as the father of modern neuroscience. What is less well known is that Cajal also had a great interest in intracellular neuronal structures and developed the reduced silver nitrate method for the study of neurofibrils (neurofilaments) and nuclear subcompartments. It was in 1903 that Cajal discovered the “accessory body” (“Cajal body”) and seven years later, published an article on the organization of the cell nucleus in mammalian neurons that represents a masterpiece of nuclear structure at the light microscopy level. In addition to the accessory body, it includes the analysis of several nuclear components currently recognized as fibrillar centers of the nucleolus, nuclear speckles of splicing factors, transcription foci, nuclear matrix, and the double nuclear membrane. The aim of this article is to revisit Cajal’s contributions to the knowledge of the neuronal nucleus in light of our current understanding of nuclear structure and function.