Journal of Neurocytology

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 433–444 | Cite as

Cell junctions and membrane specializations in the ventricular zone (germinal matrix) of the developing sheep brain: A CSF-brain barrier

  • Kjeld Møllgård
  • Yael Balslev
  • Bjarne Lauritzen
  • Norman R. Saunders


Cell junctions in the ventricular zone (germinal matrix) of the embryonic and foetal sheep brain were examined with thin-section and freeze-fracture electron microscopy. Neuroependymal cells in the early ventricular zone (days 19–40 of embryonic development, gestation period 147 days) exhibit a novel arrangement of cell junctions that connect adjacent neuroependymal cells at their lateral cell membranes next to the ventricular system. Small but typical gap junctions were also identified from the earliest stages examined. In serial thin sections and using a goniometer with a tilting device, the cell contacts showed a tight junction-like appearance of close and continuous fusion between neighbouring cell membranes. However, they were not arranged in a belt-like fashion close to the ventricular surface, but spiralled from the ventricular pole of the cells along the lateral cell membrane towards the deeper parts of the ventricular zone. Their freeze fracture appearance was different from that of single-stranded tight junctions in that the dimensions of their ridges and grooves were generally greater and the E-face grooves contained many particles. The junctions were especially prominent where more than two cells made contact. At mid-gestation they were less prominent than earlier and at 125 days gestation the neuroependymal layer was replaced by a mature-looking normal ependymal layer in which individual ependymal cells were connected by zonulae adherentes and large gap junctions; orthogonal arrays were also prominent. The close contact between gap junctions and single-stranded junctions found early in gestation suggests that there may be some developmental relation between these two membrane specializations.

The transient single-strand junctions presumably form the morphological basis for a recently described CSF-brain barrier in the early foetal sheep brain. They may also have some mechanical function in anchoring neighbouring cells together in the region of the developing brain where cells are continuously dividing and migrating.


Orthogonal Array Cell Junction Ependymal Cell Ventricular Zone Fracture Appearance 
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Copyright information

© Chapman and Hall Ltd. 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kjeld Møllgård
    • 1
  • Yael Balslev
    • 1
  • Bjarne Lauritzen
    • 1
  • Norman R. Saunders
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Medical Anatomy, Department A, The Panum InstituteUniversity of CopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Physiology and PharmacologyThe UniversitySouthamptonUK

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