Retinal neurite growth on astrocytes is not modified by extracellular matrix, anti‐L1 antibody, or oligodendrocytes

March D. Ard, Mary Bartlett Bunge, Patrick M. Wood, Melitta Schachner, Richard P. Bunge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Two factors that may influence the course of axonal regeneration in the central nervous system (CNS) are extracellular matrix (ECM) and cell surface molecules that may enhance or inhibit neurite outgrowth. Whereas cultured astrocytes have been reported to be a good substratum for neurite outgrowth, there is recent evidence that cultured oligodendrocytes are inhibitory. To test the influences of (1) ECM components, (2) the L1 adhesion molecule, and (3) the inhibitory potential of mature oligodendrocytes in the astrocytic environment, we have utilized a culture system in which neurites from embryonic rat retina grow vigorously on astrocyte monolayers. The major ECM components were assembled in neonatal rat cortical astrocyte‐retina co‐cultures only when the medium contained serum. In electron microscopic studies of serum containing cultures, retinal neurites were seen to be related to astrocyte surfaces but rarely were found in contact with ECM; in serum‐free medium the association between neurites and astrocytes was similar. In addition, the growth of neurites was vigorous whether ECM was present or absent. Presence of antibodies against the cell surface adhesion molecule L1 did not inhibit retinal neurite elongation on glial fibrillary acidic protein‐positive astrocytes, When oligodendrocytes from adult rat spinal cord were combined with the astrocytes, retinal neurites grew as well on the mixed glial population as on astrocytes alone. Immunostaining for galactocerebroside showed many oligodendrocyte processes to be aligned in the direction of neurite growth, suggesting association between the two cell types. This association was verified by electron microscopy. Furthermore, retinal explants extended neurites among myelin basic protein‐positive oligodenrocytes cultured without astrocytes. Thus, the astrocyte surface is a strong promoter of neurite growth from embryonic rat retina. This growth did not depend upon either ECM or the L1 adhesion molecule. Because neurites grew on astrocytes in the presence of mature oligodendrocytes or among oligodendrocytes alone, we conclude that oligodendrocytes do not inhibit neurite growth under certain conditions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)70-82
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


  • Cell adhesion
  • Glia
  • L1
  • NgCAM
  • Process outgrowth
  • Regeneration


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