Myelinated nerve fibres in the CNS

Prog Neurobiol. 1993 Mar;40(3):319-84. doi: 10.1016/0301-0082(93)90015-k.


(1) Lamellated glial sheaths surrounding axons, and electrogenetically active axolemmal foci have evolved independently in widely different phyla. In addition to endowing the axons to conduct trains of impulses at a high speed, myelination and node formation results in a remarkable saving of space and energy. This is particularly important in the CNS, where space is restricted. Unlike the PNS, most CNS axons are myelinated, and several axons may be myelinated by a single cell. This adds further economy of space and energy. On the other hand the high level of complexity of the CNS white matter makes it vulnerable. There are several different kinds of disease affecting myelinated fibre tracts, particularly with respect to CNS white matter. (2) The CNS node of Ranvier presents a more complex structure the larger the fibre. The constricted nodal axon is encircled by perinodal astrocytic processes which contain large gliosomes and emit delicate processes towards the nodal axolemma. One astrocyte may project to several nodes. The node gap contains a polyanionic extracellular material. (3) Lamellated myelinoid bodies are frequent along paranodes of large myelinated CNS fibres. These bodies probably form through budding off from the paranodal myelin sheath. Similar bodies are seen inside astrocytes and microglia. The observation that these bodies are Marchi-positive and argyrophilic, and the presence of acid phosphatase activity around myelinoid bodies inside microglia suggests that they might represent degenerating myelin quanta, involved in the turnover of large myelin sheaths. This putative quantal release and breakdown of myelin material must be compensated for by a production of new myelin at other sites. Therefore, myelination may be viewed as a process that continues throughout life. (4) Biochemical analysis of a sub-cellular fraction enriched in myelinoid bodies shows that these bodies have a composition basically similar to that of myelin. However, breakdown products of myelin constituents, as well as exotic high molecular substances, not present in conventional myelin, can also be found. In addition, the myelinoid body fraction contains proteolytic activity. Studies using isotope labelling of myelin proteins show a source-product relation between myelin and myelinoid bodies. Altogether these data strongly support the hypothesis that myelinoid bodies reflect the catabolic side of myelin turnover. (5) Axons in the nerve fibre layer of the adult rat retina are all unmyelinated, although their diameters range up to over 2 microns. These axons exhibit focally differentiated axolemmal areas. At these sites the axolemma presents a dense undercoating with externally associated Müller cell processes or astrocytic processes.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Central Nervous System / anatomy & histology*
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Myelin Proteins / metabolism
  • Myelin Sheath / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated* / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated* / ultrastructure
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / physiology
  • Retina / ultrastructure


  • Myelin Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins