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The design of the optic nerve in fish.

Authors
  • Scholes, J
Type
Published Article
Journal
Visual neuroscience
Publication Date
Jan 01, 1991
Volume
7
Issue
1-2
Pages
129–139
Identifiers
PMID: 1931796
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Fish have large eyes, with short optic nerves that are continually flexed by compensatory eye movements during swimming. Here, I review the tissue construction of the fish optic nerve, to see how the glia and axons are adapted to withstand these mechanical stresses, which are not normally encountered by CNS tissue within the skull. As in other lower vertebrates, the optic nerve astrocytes are highly unusual: their intermediate filaments are composed of cytokeratins (Giordano et al., 1989), not GFAP. Their processes are linked together by desmosomes, forming thin transverse lace-like partitions, placed at quasi-regular intervals longitudinally (Maggs & Scholes, 1990). This accordion-like arrangement is interpreted as providing a flexible tissue-skeleton for the optic nerve. A new observation is that the optic axons run in coherent parallel waves. This pattern, which is complementary to that of the astroglia, reversibly accommodates limited axial stretches. The waves are equivalent to those underlying the optical banding of Fontana (1781) in peripheral nerves, but wavelength (30 microns) and amplitude (5 microns) are about an order of magnitude less, reflecting the much smaller average size of the optic axons. The pattern also occurs in mammals, and may be restricted to the visual pathway: if present elsewhere in the CNS, nerve-fiber waves are inconspicuous at best. In fish, the astroglial partitions occur in register with the waves, suggesting that steric interactions between developing axons and glia may help to establish, or stabilize, the regular longitudinal spacing. This may have functional as well as mechanical implications, since the astrocytes form perinodal associations and their pattern is one which strongly clusters the nodes of Ranvier.

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