Immunocytochemical characterisation of ensheathing glia in the olfactory and vomeronasal systems of Ambystoma mexicanum (Caudata: Ambystomatidae)

Brain Struct Funct. 2016 Mar;221(2):955-67. doi: 10.1007/s00429-014-0949-8. Epub 2014 Nov 30.


The olfactory and vomeronasal systems of vertebrates are characterised by neurogenesis occurring throughout life. The regenerative ability of olfactory receptor neurons relies on specific glial cells, the olfactory and vomeronasal axon-surrounding cells. Numerous studies have examined mammalian olfactory ensheathing cells which are considered potential candidates for spinal cord injury repair using cell-based therapy. With regard to non-mammalian vertebrates, limited information is available on these glial cells in fish, and there is no information on them in terrestrial anamniotes, the amphibians. In the present research, we studied the immunocytochemical characteristics of axon-surrounding cells in Ambystoma mexicanum. Urodeles have relatively simple olfactory and vomeronasal systems, and represent a good model for studying ensheathing cells in extant representatives of basal tetrapods. Sections from the decalcified heads of A. mexicanum were immunocytochemically processed for the detection of proteins used in research on mammalian olfactory-ensheathing cells. S100, GFAP and NCAM were clearly observed. p75NTR, Gal-1 and PSA-NCAM showed weak staining. No vimentin immunopositivity was observed. The corresponding areas of the olfactory and vomeronasal pathways displayed the same staining characteristics, with the exception of Gal-1, p75NTR and PSA-NCAM in the mucosae. The degree of marker expression was not uniform throughout the sensory pathways. In contrast to fish, both olfactory and vomeronasal nerves displayed uniform staining intensity. This study showed that some markers for mammalian and fish-ensheathing glia are also applicable in urodeles. The olfactory systems of vertebrates show similarities, and also clear dissimilarities. Further investigations are required to ascertain the functional significance of these regional and interspecific differences.

Keywords: Ambystoma; Amphibia; Ensheathing cells; Immunohistochemistry; Olfactory system; Vomeronasal system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ambystoma mexicanum / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / metabolism*
  • Olfactory Pathways / metabolism
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Smell / physiology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / metabolism
  • Vomeronasal Organ / physiology


  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor