Concentration of astrocytic filaments at the retinal optic nerve junction is coincident with the absence of intra-retinal myelination: comparative and developmental evidence
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- Morcos, Y. & Chan-Ling, T. J Neurocytol (2000) 29: 665. doi:10.1023/A:1010835404754
The structure of the lamina cribrosa (LC) and astrocytic density were examined in various species with and without intra-retinal myelination. Sections of optic nerve from various species were stained with Milligan's trichrome or antibodies to glial fibrillary acidic protein, myelin basic protein (MBP) and antibody O4. Marmoset, flying fox, cat, and sheep, which lack intraretinal myelination, were shown to possess a well-developed LC as well as a marked concentration of astrocytic filaments distal to the LC. Rat and mouse, which lack intraretinal myelination, lacked a well-developed LC but exhibited a marked concentration of astrocytic filaments in this region. Rabbit and chicken, which exhibit intraretinal myelination, lacked both a well-developed LC and a concentration of astrocytes at the retinal optic nerve junction (ROJ). A marked concentration of astrocytes at the ROJ of human fetuses was also apparent at 13 weeks of gestation, prior to myelination of the optic nerve; in contrast, the LC was not fully developed even at birth. This concentration of astrocytes was located distal to O4 and MBP immunoreactivity in human optic nerve, and coincided with the site of initial myelination of ganglion cell axons in marmoset and rat. Myelination proceeded from the chiasm towards the retinal end of the human optic nerve. Moreover, the outer limit of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPC) migration into the rabbit retina was restricted by the outer limit of astrocyte spread. These observations indicate that a concentration of astrocytic filaments at the ROJ is coincident with the absence of intraretinal myelination. Differential expression of tenascin-C by astrocytes at the ROJ appears to contribute to the molecular barrier to OPC migration (see Bartsch et al., 1994), while expression of the homedomain protein Vax 1 by glial cells at the optic nerve head appears to inhibit migration of retinal pigment epithelial cells into the optic nerve (see Bertuzzi et al., 1999). These observations combined with our present comparative and developmental data lead us to suggest that the astrocytes at the ROJ serve to regulate cellular traffic into and out of the retina.