The astrocytes in the retina and optic nerve head of mammals: a special glia for the ganglion cell axons

Cell Tissue Res. 1980;206(3):367-78. doi: 10.1007/BF00237966.


The neuroglia in the retina and the intraocular portion of the optic nerve of the monkey and cat has been examined by light and electron microscopy. In the retina two types of macroglial cells can be distinguished: 1) Müller cells, and 2) astrocytes. The bipolar radial glial cells of Müller penetrate the entire thickness of the retina and their basal processes align in the nerve fibre layer to form septa that fasciculate the axons of the ganglion cells. In contrast to the Müller cells, the retinal astrocytes are not homogeneously distributed throughout the retina; their number correlates with the thickness of the nerve fibre layer. The processes of the astrocytes are confined to the ganglion cell layer and to the nerve fibre layer. In the latter, the astrocytic processes run parallel to and between the axons of a given nerve fibre bundle. According to cytological criteria, the retinal astrocytes are protoplasmic. In the intraocular portion of the optic nerve, however, the astrocytes are fibrous and their processes run perpendicular to the axon bundles of the prelaminar portion of the optic nerve. Thus, because of their intimate morphological relationship to axons of the nerve fibre layer and the intraocular portion of the optic nerve, the astrocytes in the eye of the monkey and the cat may be considered as a special glia for the axons of ganglion cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / ultrastructure
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Cats / anatomy & histology*
  • Cell Nucleus / ultrastructure
  • Cytoplasm / ultrastructure
  • Haplorhini
  • Intercellular Junctions / ultrastructure
  • Macaca / anatomy & histology*
  • Macaca fascicularis / anatomy & histology*
  • Neuroglia / ultrastructure*
  • Optic Nerve / cytology*
  • Organoids / ultrastructure
  • Retina / cytology*