Differentiation of neuron-like cells in cultured rat optic nerves: a neuron or common neuron-glia progenitor?

Dev Biol. 1989 May;133(1):247-53. doi: 10.1016/0012-1606(89)90315-1.


The optic nerve consists of axons, glia, and undifferentiated cells; neuronal cell bodies are absent. To study the developmental potential of glia and precursor cells in vitro, we devised an original, long-term culture system of optic nerve explants, called minisegments, of newborn rats; at this stage the nerves are composed of naked axons, astrocytes, and undifferentiated cells. After about 4-5 weeks in culture, neuron-like cells appeared, which showed morphological, fine structural, and immunocytochemical properties ascribed to neurons. These neuron-like cells may be derived from a common neuron-glia progenitor or from a small population of precursors, which never produce glia in situ.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Culture Techniques
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / analysis
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / analysis
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neuroglia / cytology*
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Optic Nerve / cytology*
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase / analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Stem Cells / cytology*


  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase