Abstract— The question of a constant density of glial cells in mammalian cerebral cortex regardless of species was examined by surveying the cortical activities of two enzymes primarily localized to dial cells. The cortical activity of butyrylcholinesterase (EC 184.108.40.206) was essentially constant at a rate of approx. 0.1 μmol of butyrylthiocholine hydrolysed min-1 g-1 over the range of species from rat (brain wt., 1.6 g) to fin whale and sperm whale (brain wt., 6800 and 7800 g, respectively). Over the same range the activity of cortical acetylcholinesterase, a neuronal enzyme, decreases by a factor of 7. Thus, butyrylcholinesterase ranged from < 2 per cent (in small rodent brains) to approximately 10 per cent (in whale brain) of the cortical acetylcholinesterase activity. The cortical activity of carbonic anhydrase (EC 220.127.116.11) was constant at a rate of 6.2 (± 0.25) μmol of CO2 evolved min-1 g-1 over the range of species from guinea-pig (brain wt., 4.75 g) to fin whale (brain wt., 6800 g). These data obtained by assaying the dehydration reaction were confirmed by limited assays of the esterase activity of the enzyme (with p-nitrophenylacetate as substrate) and agreed with limited, previously reported data for the hydration reaction. Thus, the circumstantial evidence strongly favoured a relative constancy of cortical glial cell density regardless of species.
The rates of anaerobic glycolysis in the cerebral cortex of various species were also investigated. For six species from mouse (brain wt., 0.4 g) to beef (brain wt., 380 g) cortical anaerobic glycolysis varied only slightly in the range of 50–62 μmol of CO2 evolved h-1 g-l, whereas cortical oxygen consumption for the same range of species decreased by a factor of 3. Previously frozen samples of beef cortex glycolysed at 35 per Cent of the rate of fresh (unfrozen) samples. Since identical rates were obtained for previously frozen samples of fin whale cerebral cortex, we concluded that the relative constancy of cortical anaerobic glycolysis could be extended to the range from mouse to whale and that this aspect of cortical metabolism is probably primarily glial in localization. Some implications of the latter conclusion for the proposed role of astrocytes as modulators of neuronal activity have been discussed.