The Microtubular Pattern Changes at the Spinal Cord-Root Junction and Reverts at the Root-Peripheral Nerve Junction in Sensory and Motor Fibres of the Rat


Correspondence to: Jaime Alvarez, as above


In the rat, we studied the microtubular content of central nervous system (CNS) axons (pyramidal tract, dorsal funiculus, and intracord domain of motor axons), of radicular axons (ventral and dorsal roots), and of peripheral axons (sural and lateral gastrocnemius nerves). The microtubular density had an inverse relationship with the size of the axon. Within the CNS, values ranged from over 120 microtubules/μm2 for axons smaller than 0.1 μm2 of the pyramidal tract and dorsal funiculus to 24 for 3-μm motor axons (area, 7 μm2) in their spinal cord domain. Peripheral nerve and CNS axons of the same size had comparable microtubular densities. In contrast, the microtubular density of dorsal and ventral root axons was one half that of CNS or peripheral nerve axons of equal calibre. Considered along the axon, the microtubular density of motor and sensory fibres is high in the CNS domain, low in the root, and high again in the peripheral nerve domain. These observations are inconsistent with the notion that the cytoskeleton moves coherently away from the perikaryon. We conclude that the axonal microtubular content accords with the calibre of the fibre and with the anatomical region where it courses. We propose that axonal microtubules are regulated by local cues.