Glial cell intrusions actively remove detritus due to toxic chemicals from within nerve cells

Neurotoxicology. Spring 1990;11(1):1-12.


It has been observed that when neurons are acutely damaged by toxic chemicals leading to accumulations of effete materials, glial supporting cells insert cytoplasmic processes into neuronal cytoplasm and appear to transfer this material into themselves. Essentially the same phenomenon has now been seen in several situations, namely in peripheral nerve axons in a number of experimental peripheral nerve intoxications, especially in spinal roots, as well as occasionally in normal axons in paranodal regions and more frequently above a nerve ligation. It has been seen, too, in cerebellar Purkinje cells after acrylamide intoxication and in hippocampal pyramidal neurons and in neurons of the pyriform cortex after triethyllead and trimethyltin intoxications. A similar process may also be taking place regularly both in normal and chemically damaged spinal ganglion cells through their satellite cell sheath. While probing of neurons by glia has also been noted normally in pre-synaptic regions of mammalian neurons as well as in the perikarya of certain goldfish neurons, the purpose for this is less apparent. Such findings in relation to removal of bulk residual material from neurons raise intriguing questions as to the signals required between cells to enable such evidently cooperative intercellular events to take place, and whether this process, that is apparently so inefficient in removing lipofuscin pigment from ageing neurons, may not, perhaps, be adversely influenced by environmental agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Hazardous Substances / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / physiology*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism
  • Neurons, Afferent / ultrastructure
  • Oligodendroglia / physiology
  • Purkinje Cells / metabolism
  • Schwann Cells / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism


  • Hazardous Substances