Olfactory ensheathing glia: properties and function

Brain Res Bull. 1998 Jun;46(3):175-87. doi: 10.1016/s0361-9230(97)00463-2.


The failure of regenerating axons to grow within the adult mammalian central nervous system (CNS) does not apply to the olfactory bulb (OB). In this structure, normal and transected olfactory axons are able to enter, regenerate, and reestablish lost synaptic contacts with their targets, throughout the lifetime of the organism. A remarkable difference between an axonal growth-permissive structure such as the OB and the remaining CNS resides in the presence of ensheathing glia in the former. These cells exhibit phenotypic and functional properties known to be involved in the process of axonal elongation that may explain the permissibility of the OB to axonal growth. In addition, transplants of ensheathing glia were successfully used to promote axonal regeneration within the injured adult CNS. The axonal growth-promoting properties of ensheathing glia make the study of this cell type interesting to provide an insight into the mechanisms underlying the process of axonal regeneration. Therefore, in this article we review the developmental, morphologic, immunocytochemical, and functional properties presented by this unique glial cell type, and correlate them with the axonal growth-promoting ability of ensheathing glia. In addition, we provide some evidence of the potentiality that ensheathing glia might have as a promoter of axonal regeneration within the injured nervous system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology
  • Neuroglia / cytology
  • Neuroglia / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Olfactory Pathways / cytology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*