Microtubule-synaptic vesicle associations in cultured rat spinal cord neurons
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This paper describes new ultrastructural features of neural processes and of synapses in cultured CNS tissue treated with albumin before fixation using a modification of the technique recently introduced by Gray (1975). Nerve fibre bundles in explants of foetal spinal cord grown in vitro for 15–18 days were transected microsurgically. After transection the cultures were exposed to 20% albumin in distilled water and then fixed in unbuffered osmium tetroxide followed by unbuffered glutaraldehyde.
In this material, but not in controls (injured but not exposed to albumin; exposed to albumin without injury) microtubules were found within many axonal varicosities, often situated close to presynaptic membrane specializations. These microtubules were closely associated with vesicles resembling synaptic vesicles, which were occasionally aligned in rows along the microtubules. Similar vesicle-microtubule associations were also found in non-terminal axons. Microtubules were also observed very close to some postsynaptic densities.
The possibility that the microtubule-vesicle associations are involved in vesicle movements (along axons and/or within axon terminals) is discussed. A more direct involvement of microtubules in terminals in the mechanism of transmitter release is also considered.
Key wordsSynapses Microtubules Albumin Tissue culture
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