Comprehensive Physiology Wiley Online Library

General Morphology of Neurons and Neuroglia

Full Article on Wiley Online Library



Abstract

The sections in this article are:

1 Neuronal Shape as A Sign of Function
2 Sizes of Neurons
3 Cytology of Neurons
3.1 Soma or Cell Body
3.2 Dendrites
3.3 Axon
3.4 Synapse
3.5 Neuron Doctrine
4 Neuroglia
4.1 Astrocytes
4.2 Oligodendrocytes
4.3 Microglia
4.4 Schwann Cell
Figure 1. Figure 1.

Camera lucida drawing of 3 small pyramidal cells in layer 3 of cerebral cortex (area 17) of adult male Macaca mulatta. Cells give rise to apical and basal dendrites (d) of varying caliber, which display numerous spiny appendages of diverse shapes and sizes. In their ascent toward the pial surface the apical dendrites associate with those of other pyramidal cells in the same and deeper layers of cortex to form fascicles. Notice that cell bodies are also vertically aligned. A thin axon (arrows) springs from each cell body and descends to deeper layers. Rapid Golgi preparation.

Figure 2. Figure 2.

Two large nerve cells in dentate nucleus of cerebellum of adult male Macaca mulatta. These nerve cells, immersed in field of heavily myelinated nerve fibers, emit heavy dendrites (d). Both cell body and dendrites are covered with spherical boutons terminaux (arrows). Within cells a dense population of granules and long mitochondria can be seen. Epon, 1.5‐μm section, toluidine blue. × 1,300.

Figure 3. Figure 3.

Perikaryon of large cell in dentate nucleus of cerebellum of adult male Macaca mulatta. Folded nuclear envelope encloses a dilute and fairly homogeneous karyoplasm, in which the large dense nucleolus is conspicuous. Beside the nucleolus is a fragment of condensed heterochromatin, the nucleolar satellite or Barr body. Section passes obliquely through nuclear envelope at asterisks, disclosing arrays of pores. In the perikaryon, cytoplasm is crowded with organelles, among the most prominent of which are mitochondria (m), lysosomes (ly), Golgi complexes (G), and the granular endoplasmic reticulum (er). Neurofilaments and microtubules can be seen here and there. Notice that mitochondrial profiles occur in groups, indicating that each cluster represents a single mitochondrion of complex configuration. × 11,000.

Figure 4. Figure 4.

Cytoplasm of a Meynert cell in cerebral cortex of adult male Macaca mulatta. Well‐developed Nissl body lies in left upper corner of field, displaying its constituent cisternae of endoplasmic reticulum (er) and both attached and free ribosomes in polysomal array. Clustering of mitochondrial profiles is well shown and the fragment of Golgi apparatus (G) included in the field exhibits typical fenestrated cisternae. An open space to the right of center contains microtubules (mt) and neurofilaments (nf) aligned in Plasmastrasse. Axosomatic synapse with a terminal containing flattened vesicles occurs at lower left (arrows). Area 17. × 13,000.

Figure 5. Figure 5.

Axodendritic synapse of Purkinje cell axon terminal in dentate nucleus of cerebellum of Macaca mulatta. Synaptic cleft is clearly shown. Patches of dense filamentous material adhere to both pre‐ and postsynaptic membranes. In two places (arrows), where synaptic vesicles approach surface of terminal, adherent densities are more prominent on presynaptic than on postsynaptic side. Synaptic cleft contains ill‐defined densities lying in a plane roughly bisecting the cleft. Synaptic vesicles are pleomorphic with high proportion of ellipsoidal or flattened outlines, × 74,000.

Figure 6. Figure 6.

Catecholamine‐containing terminal synapsing on small dendrite in dentate nucleus of cerebellum of Macaca mulatta. Terminal contains 2 kinds of synaptic vesicles, one small and clear centered, the other about 120 nm in diameter and filled with a dense core. Synaptic junction is characterized by some widening of cleft and modest asymmetry of dense adherent plaques. Small dendrite is nearly filled with microtubules and a single mitochondrion in transverse section, × 77,000.

Figure 7. Figure 7.

Dendrite and spines of a Purkinje cell of rat cerebellar cortex. Replica obtained by freeze‐fracture technique provides three‐dimensional view of dendritic spines. Dendrite stem passing across upper left corner of field gives off 4 spines (S1‐S4) that reach out to synapse with parallel fibers (pf) coursing diagonally across the field. A fifth spine (S5) appears in fracture plane, but its connection with dendritic stem is not shown. Dendrite and its spines are coated with neuroglial processes (ng). S1 and S4 are intact, presenting unbroken A faces along their entire length. S2 is broken so that only the B face of its stem remains, whereas the head is complete. At the extremity of S2 is a rounded, flattened area that is almost clear of A face particles. S3 is represented entirely by its B face, which bears a collection of particles near its tip. Varicosity in pf3 underlying S3 signals presence of a synaptic junction between these 2 structures. Similarly, B face of S5 displays a cluster of particles at site of its synaptic junction with pf5. Widened synaptic cleft is clearly shown, × 47,000.

From Palay & Chan‐Palay
Figure 8. Figure 8.

Camera lucida drawing of protoplasmic astrocytes in cerebellar cortex of adult rat. Two cells in molecular layer (SA1 and SA2) are examples of smooth protoplasmic astrocytes, the radiating branching processes of which lack elaborate appendages. Cell (VA) below Purkinje cells (PC) is a velate astrocyte displaying its velamentous processes, which spread out in all directions among nerve cells and fibers of gray matter. Golgi‐Kopsch preparation; pia, pial surface of brain.

From Palay & Chan‐Palay
Figure 9. Figure 9.

Three cells in layer 4 of cerebral cortex of adult male Macaca mulatta. Upper half of field is occupied by a small neuron (stellate cell), which sends off a dendrite to left and its axon to upper margin of picture. Nucleus is relatively large and cytoplasm is limited to a narrow rim about it. Below the neuron is a rounded, dark cell with a distinct outline and dense nucleus. This is an oligodendrocyte with characteristic cytological features: dense nucleus and cytoplasm, small fragmented profiles of endoplasmic reticulum, small Golgi apparatus, numerous microtubules. In left corner of field is a protoplasmic astrocyte with its typically irregular outline and light nucleus and cytoplasm. Visual cortex, area 17. × 10,000.

Figure 10. Figure 10.

Camera lucida drawing of oligodendrocytes in white matter and granular layer of cerebellum of adult rat. Cell in lower half of picture lies entirely within white matter. Here myelinated fibers are plaited in regular criss‐crossing groups. Long, coiled processes extending from oligodendrocyte are continuous cytoplasmic ribbons in myelin sheaths. These processes serve axons that run in either longitudinal (heavy arrow) or transverse (fine arrows) directions. Cell in upper half of field lies in granular layer, and nearly all of its processes run approximately longitudinally, although some run transversely. They follow trajectory of myelinated Purkinje axons and mossy fibers. Limits of white matter (wm) and granular layer (grl) are indicated by a line. Several mossy fibers (MF) with their elaborate synaptic varicosities (rosettes) are also shown, along with cell bodies of a few granule cells (gr c). Golgi‐Kopsch preparation.

From Palay & Chan‐Palay


Figure 1.

Camera lucida drawing of 3 small pyramidal cells in layer 3 of cerebral cortex (area 17) of adult male Macaca mulatta. Cells give rise to apical and basal dendrites (d) of varying caliber, which display numerous spiny appendages of diverse shapes and sizes. In their ascent toward the pial surface the apical dendrites associate with those of other pyramidal cells in the same and deeper layers of cortex to form fascicles. Notice that cell bodies are also vertically aligned. A thin axon (arrows) springs from each cell body and descends to deeper layers. Rapid Golgi preparation.



Figure 2.

Two large nerve cells in dentate nucleus of cerebellum of adult male Macaca mulatta. These nerve cells, immersed in field of heavily myelinated nerve fibers, emit heavy dendrites (d). Both cell body and dendrites are covered with spherical boutons terminaux (arrows). Within cells a dense population of granules and long mitochondria can be seen. Epon, 1.5‐μm section, toluidine blue. × 1,300.



Figure 3.

Perikaryon of large cell in dentate nucleus of cerebellum of adult male Macaca mulatta. Folded nuclear envelope encloses a dilute and fairly homogeneous karyoplasm, in which the large dense nucleolus is conspicuous. Beside the nucleolus is a fragment of condensed heterochromatin, the nucleolar satellite or Barr body. Section passes obliquely through nuclear envelope at asterisks, disclosing arrays of pores. In the perikaryon, cytoplasm is crowded with organelles, among the most prominent of which are mitochondria (m), lysosomes (ly), Golgi complexes (G), and the granular endoplasmic reticulum (er). Neurofilaments and microtubules can be seen here and there. Notice that mitochondrial profiles occur in groups, indicating that each cluster represents a single mitochondrion of complex configuration. × 11,000.



Figure 4.

Cytoplasm of a Meynert cell in cerebral cortex of adult male Macaca mulatta. Well‐developed Nissl body lies in left upper corner of field, displaying its constituent cisternae of endoplasmic reticulum (er) and both attached and free ribosomes in polysomal array. Clustering of mitochondrial profiles is well shown and the fragment of Golgi apparatus (G) included in the field exhibits typical fenestrated cisternae. An open space to the right of center contains microtubules (mt) and neurofilaments (nf) aligned in Plasmastrasse. Axosomatic synapse with a terminal containing flattened vesicles occurs at lower left (arrows). Area 17. × 13,000.



Figure 5.

Axodendritic synapse of Purkinje cell axon terminal in dentate nucleus of cerebellum of Macaca mulatta. Synaptic cleft is clearly shown. Patches of dense filamentous material adhere to both pre‐ and postsynaptic membranes. In two places (arrows), where synaptic vesicles approach surface of terminal, adherent densities are more prominent on presynaptic than on postsynaptic side. Synaptic cleft contains ill‐defined densities lying in a plane roughly bisecting the cleft. Synaptic vesicles are pleomorphic with high proportion of ellipsoidal or flattened outlines, × 74,000.



Figure 6.

Catecholamine‐containing terminal synapsing on small dendrite in dentate nucleus of cerebellum of Macaca mulatta. Terminal contains 2 kinds of synaptic vesicles, one small and clear centered, the other about 120 nm in diameter and filled with a dense core. Synaptic junction is characterized by some widening of cleft and modest asymmetry of dense adherent plaques. Small dendrite is nearly filled with microtubules and a single mitochondrion in transverse section, × 77,000.



Figure 7.

Dendrite and spines of a Purkinje cell of rat cerebellar cortex. Replica obtained by freeze‐fracture technique provides three‐dimensional view of dendritic spines. Dendrite stem passing across upper left corner of field gives off 4 spines (S1‐S4) that reach out to synapse with parallel fibers (pf) coursing diagonally across the field. A fifth spine (S5) appears in fracture plane, but its connection with dendritic stem is not shown. Dendrite and its spines are coated with neuroglial processes (ng). S1 and S4 are intact, presenting unbroken A faces along their entire length. S2 is broken so that only the B face of its stem remains, whereas the head is complete. At the extremity of S2 is a rounded, flattened area that is almost clear of A face particles. S3 is represented entirely by its B face, which bears a collection of particles near its tip. Varicosity in pf3 underlying S3 signals presence of a synaptic junction between these 2 structures. Similarly, B face of S5 displays a cluster of particles at site of its synaptic junction with pf5. Widened synaptic cleft is clearly shown, × 47,000.

From Palay & Chan‐Palay


Figure 8.

Camera lucida drawing of protoplasmic astrocytes in cerebellar cortex of adult rat. Two cells in molecular layer (SA1 and SA2) are examples of smooth protoplasmic astrocytes, the radiating branching processes of which lack elaborate appendages. Cell (VA) below Purkinje cells (PC) is a velate astrocyte displaying its velamentous processes, which spread out in all directions among nerve cells and fibers of gray matter. Golgi‐Kopsch preparation; pia, pial surface of brain.

From Palay & Chan‐Palay


Figure 9.

Three cells in layer 4 of cerebral cortex of adult male Macaca mulatta. Upper half of field is occupied by a small neuron (stellate cell), which sends off a dendrite to left and its axon to upper margin of picture. Nucleus is relatively large and cytoplasm is limited to a narrow rim about it. Below the neuron is a rounded, dark cell with a distinct outline and dense nucleus. This is an oligodendrocyte with characteristic cytological features: dense nucleus and cytoplasm, small fragmented profiles of endoplasmic reticulum, small Golgi apparatus, numerous microtubules. In left corner of field is a protoplasmic astrocyte with its typically irregular outline and light nucleus and cytoplasm. Visual cortex, area 17. × 10,000.



Figure 10.

Camera lucida drawing of oligodendrocytes in white matter and granular layer of cerebellum of adult rat. Cell in lower half of picture lies entirely within white matter. Here myelinated fibers are plaited in regular criss‐crossing groups. Long, coiled processes extending from oligodendrocyte are continuous cytoplasmic ribbons in myelin sheaths. These processes serve axons that run in either longitudinal (heavy arrow) or transverse (fine arrows) directions. Cell in upper half of field lies in granular layer, and nearly all of its processes run approximately longitudinally, although some run transversely. They follow trajectory of myelinated Purkinje axons and mossy fibers. Limits of white matter (wm) and granular layer (grl) are indicated by a line. Several mossy fibers (MF) with their elaborate synaptic varicosities (rosettes) are also shown, along with cell bodies of a few granule cells (gr c). Golgi‐Kopsch preparation.

From Palay & Chan‐Palay
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Sanford L. Palay, Victoria Chan‐Palay. General Morphology of Neurons and Neuroglia. Compr Physiol 2011, Supplement 1: Handbook of Physiology, The Nervous System, Cellular Biology of Neurons: 5-37. First published in print 1977. doi: 10.1002/cphy.cp010102