Axon-myelin sheath relations of oligodendrocyte unit phenotypes in the adult rat anterior medullary velum

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Abstract

Summary

Axon-oligodendrocyte relations of Rip-immunolabelled and dye-injected oligodendrocyte units are characterised in the adult rat anterior medullary velum (AMV). Each oligodendrocyte unit comprised the oligodendrocyte cell body, processes and the internodal myelin segments they support. Oligodendrocyte units corresponded to classically described type I/II or type III/IV unit phenotypes which respectively myelinated discrete populations of small and large diameter axons, delineated by a myelinated fire diameter of 2–4 μm (diameter of the axon plus its myelin sheath). Within units, mean fibre diameter was directly related to mean internodal length and inversely related to the number of myelin sheaths in the unit. The relationship between fibre diameter and internodal length was retained in units which myelinated axons of different diameters, indicating that axon diameter was an important determinant of the longitudinal dimensions of myelin sheaths. We also show that type III/IV units maintained a far greater volume of myelin than type I/II units. It was concluded that type I/II and III/IV oligodendrocytes represent two functionally and morphologically distinct phenotypes whose distribution densities were determined by the diameter and spatial dispersion of axons.

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