Postnatal differentiation of rat optic nerve fibers: electron microscopic observations on the development of nodes of Ranvier and axoglial relations

J Comp Neurol. 1984 Mar 20;224(1):25-37. doi: 10.1002/cne.902240103.


The postnatal differentiation of rat optic nerve fibres was examined by transmission electron microscopy. The results show that many early developing axons contain clusters of vesiculotubular profiles prior to myelination. At places vesicular elements appear to fuse with the axolemma, and, in addition, some axons exhibit deep axolemmal invaginations and axoplasmic lamellated bodies. It is suggested that these features might reflect axolemmal remodelling, possibly involving axoglial signalling and/or functional differentiation of the axolemma. The size distribution of unmyelinated optic nerve axons changes little during development. Ensheathment of larger axons commences 6 days postnatally. The subsequent formation of compact myelin sheaths is accompanied by an increase in axonal diameter. The early sheaths are a few microns long and separated by long bare axon segments. In optic nerves from 10-12-day-old rat pups, a few sheaths consisting of about five layers border primitive asymmetric nodes with a patchy axolemmal undercoating. Extensions from one of the terminating sheaths are often associated with undercoated patches of axolemma. Relatively differentiated nodes of Ranvier first appear 14-16 days after birth. The continued nodal maturation involves establishment of a regular nodal geometry, increasing distinctness of the axolemmal undercoating, and formation of perinodal astrocytic processes embedded in an extracellular node gap substance. The results are compared with available data on the conduction properties of rat optic nerve fibres during development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Astrocytes / cytology
  • Axons / ultrastructure*
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Myelin Sheath / ultrastructure
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / ultrastructure
  • Neuroglia / cytology*
  • Optic Nerve / cytology*
  • Ranvier's Nodes / ultrastructure*
  • Rats