To what extent are the retinal capillaries ensheathed by Müller cells? A stereological study in the tree shrew Tupaia belangeri

J Anat. 2000 Apr;196 ( Pt 3)(Pt 3):453-61. doi: 10.1046/j.1469-7580.2000.19630453.x.


The cellular ensheathment of capillaries in the 3 outer capillary layers of the central retina of the adult tree shrew Tupaia belangeri was studied quantitatively by transmission electron microscopy. Using a stereological approach, the relative surface of capillary basal lamina ensheathed by Müller cells and by nonmacroglial cells (collectively termed non-Müller cells) was estimated in 5 animals. The participation of Müller cells was distinctly different in the 3 capillary layers studied. In the outermost capillary layer 1, the mean (standard deviation) percentage surface coverage by non-Müller cell processes was 46.8 (15.3)%. Much less of the capillary basal lamina was ensheathed by non-Müller cells in capillary layers 2 and 3 (3.0 (2.1)% and 0.3 (0.3)% respectively). The observed total variation of the stereological estimates for the surface fraction of Müller cells (expressed as the between-subject coefficient of variation) was significantly higher in capillary layer 1 (28.8%) compared with capillary layers 2 (2.2%) and 3 (0.3%). In capillary layer 1, the high observed total variation was due to a high biological variation among animals for the fractions of both Müller cell and non-Müller cell ensheathment. The rare occurrence of direct contacts between the capillary basal lamina and the perikarya of either microglial cells (capillary layer 3) or amacrine cells (capillary layer 2) corresponded well to the low stereological values obtained for the relative capillary surface ensheathed by non-Müller cells in these capillary layers. Previously, extensive and frequent contacts between the basal lamina of capillaries belonging to capillary layer 1 and horizontal cells had been observed in single sections. The present study quantitatively demonstrates a marked paucity of macroglial investment of capillaries located in capillary layer 1 of Tupaia. It can be concluded that horizontal cells ensheath most of the capillary surface not invested by Müller cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basement Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Capillaries / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neuroglia / ultrastructure
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Animal / physiology*
  • Retinal Vessels / ultrastructure*
  • Tupaiidae / anatomy & histology*