A fourth type of neuroglial cell in the adult central nervous system
Labeling central nervous tissue from mature animals with antibodies to NG2 chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan reveals the existence of large numbers of NG2 positive cells, at least some of which are oligodendroglial progenitors. It is generally agreed that these cells differ from the classically defined neuroglia, since they are antigenetically different from astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, or microglial cells. Although the NG2 positive cells have been well characterized in light microscopic preparations, examination of the labeled cells by electron microscopy have not led to general agreement about their morphological features. The basic reason for this is that it is difficult to obtain good preservation of the fine structure of NG2 labeled neurons. Since these NG2 positive cells are abundant in the central nervous system, it was decided to examine routinely prepared tissue from the brains of mature monkeys and rats by electron microscopy to determine if there is a neuroglial cell type whose presence has been overlooked. It soon became evident that there is a fourth type of neuroglial cell. These cells have pale, irregular shaped nuclei with a thin rim of heterochromatin beneath the nuclear envelope, and they have pale cytoplasm. Superficially they resemble astrocytes, which is the probable reason why the presence of this fourth type of neuroglial cell has been largely overlooked. However, the fourth type of neuroglial cell, here referred to as a ß neuroglial cell, has no intermediate filaments in its cytoplasm, the mitochondria are thinner than those of astrocytes, centrioles are frequently encountered in their cytoplasm, and when they are adjacent to capillaries they are always separated from the basal membrane by an astrocytic processes.
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