• glial-neuronal interactions;
  • retina;
  • nearest-neighbour analysis


We have examined the morphology of astrocytes and the arrays they form in two situations, in retinas from which ganglion cells and blood vessels have been caused to degenerate, and in vitro. These observations were made to test whether the regularity of the spacing of astrocytes within normal central nervous tissue results from interaction among astrocytes, or from interaction between astrocytes and other elements of that tissue. Both in the partially degenerated cat retina, and in cultures of astrocytes from neonatal rat cortex, astrocytes make and maintain contact with neighbouring astrocytes, yet space their somas apart, giving regularity to the arrays. These results support the hypothesis that the regularity observed in arrays of astrocytes in intact tissue results from an interaction among astrocytes, independent of neighbouring structures, and lead us to suggest that the cell-cell interactions involved in contact spacing serve to distribute astrocytes through the central nervous system, and may, in other tissues, underlie the formation of epithelia. © Wiley-Liss, Inc.