Ultrastructure of the central nervous system in a myelin deficient rat

J Neurocytol. 1982 Aug;11(4):671-91. doi: 10.1007/BF01262431.


Myelin deficiency (md) is a new mutant in the Wistar rat caused by an X-linked recessive lethal gene. One-half of the male offspring develop tremor and ataxia at 10-12 days of age and seizures at 16-21 days. Usually, the animals die 24-28 days postnatally unless survival is prolonged by anticonvulsants. Light microscopic examination of the C.N.S. shows a complete lack of myelin. The P.N.S. is normally myelinated, however. Frontal cortex, corpus callosum, optic nerves, cerebellum and spinal cord were studied routinely in affected animals aged 3-46 days. Abnormal males were identified three days after birth by the absence of myelinated axons from the ventral funiculus of the cervical cord. In mutants aged 3-16 days, axons had the usual ultrastructural features but were either entirely non-myelinated or, rarely, were invested by poorly organized, non-compacted, myelin-like loops of membranes, 2 to 4 in number. In mutants aged 17-20 days, axonal swellings appeared. These increased in number with longer survival times and contained large numbers of microtubules, neurofilaments, mitochondria and dense bodies. Normal C.N.S. myelin was not observed at any age. Two types of abnormal glial cell occur in md. The first, present in white matter at three days of age, is an abnormal oligodendrocyte. The cytoplasm contains dilatation of the rough-surfaced endoplasmic reticulum and the nuclear envelope is widened. A second cell-type, conspicuous by 10 days, has an electron-dense nucleus with prominently clumped chromatin and large cytoplasmic lipid droplets. This second cell type is believed to be a microgliacyte. The number of cytologically-normal oligodendrocytes decreases as mutants age while hypertrophied, filament-rich astrocytes occur in increasing numbers. The myelin defect in md C.N.S. is probably due to an abnormality of oligodendrocytes. Axonal alterations are probably secondary. Myelin deficiency resembles the murine mutant, Jimpy (jp), although ultrastructural changes in oligodendrocytes appear to be dis-similar and md, in contrast to jp, contains no normal-appearing C.N.S. myelin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Myelin Sheath / physiology*
  • Myelin Sheath / ultrastructure
  • Nervous System Diseases / genetics*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Mutant Strains
  • Spinal Cord / growth & development
  • Spinal Cord / physiopathology*
  • Spinal Cord / ultrastructure