The glial ensheathment of the soma and axon hillock of retinal ganglion cells

Vis Neurosci. Mar-Apr 1995;12(2):273-9. doi: 10.1017/s0952523800007951.


We have studied the glial investment of ganglion cells of the cat's retina, orienting the sections taken for electron microscopy so that the investment could be traced from the soma along the axon. The soma of each ganglion cell is covered by a close-fitting, continuous sheath formed by Müller cells. The axon hillock and the first part of the initial segment are invested by an extension of the somal sheath, and are thus enclosed in the same glial compartment as the soma. The initial segment extends a few microns past the Müller cell sheath; this last length of the initial segment is contacted by numerous processes of astrocytes, which converge on it in a pattern found also on nodes of the same axons, in the optic nerve. Beyond the initial segment, the intraretinal lengths of the axons are invested by both Müller cells and astrocytes, but the investment is strikingly incomplete. Large areas of axonal membrane have no glial cover, and lie close to other axonal membranes. The sequential arrangement of these distinct forms of glial wrapping of the soma, initial segment, and axon is described here for the first time. It is suggested that this pattern of glial investment controls the flow of current between dendrite and initial segment of the ganglion cell, defines the site of initiation of action spikes, and controls the formation of synapses on the soma and initial segment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / ultrastructure
  • Axons / ultrastructure*
  • Cats
  • Neuroglia / ultrastructure*
  • Optic Nerve / ultrastructure
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / ultrastructure*