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Abstract

Fluorescence spectroscopy has been employed to investigate the emission spectrum of unusual orange-red fluorescence found in the mouse optic nerve. Comparison of the spectra obtained with those of a number of porphyrins used as standards (protoporphyrin, uroporphyrin, and coproporphyrins) shows that the autofluorescence excited at about 400 nm (Soret band) is due to the presence of a mixture of these or other porphyrins in the nerve. Phase contrast, dark-field, and light-microscopy techniques demonstrated that the fluorescence is emitted by dense, coarse inclusions in the cytoplasm of astrocytes. The inclusions also exhibit high activity of endogenous peroxidase, a heme (porphyrin)- containing enzyme, characteristic for process of phagocytosis. A possible particiption of these astrocytes in phagocytosis is delineated.