Dorsal root ganglia from fetal rats were explanted on collagen-coated coverslips and carried in Maximow double-coverslip assemblies for periods up to 3 months. These cultured ganglia were studied in the living state, in stained whole mounts, and in sections after OsO4 fixation and Epon embedment. From the central cluster of nerve cell bodies, neurites emerge to form a rich network of fascicles which often reach the edge of the carrying coverslip. The neurons resemble their in vivo counterparts in nuclear and cytoplasmic content and organization; e.g., they appear as "light" or "dark" cells, depending on the amount of cytoplasmic neurofilaments. Satellite cells form a complete investment around the neuronal soma and are themselves everywhere covered by basement membrane. The neuron-satellite cell boundary is complicated by spinelike processes arising from the neuronal soma. Neuron size, myelinated fiber diameter, and internode length in the cultures do not reach the larger of the values known for ganglion and peripheral nerve in situ (30). Unmyelinated and myelinated nerve fibers and associated Schwann cells and endoneurial and perineurial components are organized into typical fascicles. The relationship of the Schwann cell and its single myelinated fiber or numerous unmyelinated fibers and the properties of myelin, such as lamellar spacing, mesaxons, Schmidt-Lanterman clefts, nodes of Ranvier, and protuberances, mimic the in vivo pattern. It is concluded that cultivation of fetal rat dorsal root ganglia by this technique fosters maturation and long-term maintenance of all the elements that comprise this cellular community in vivo (except vascular components) and, furthermore, allows these various components to relate faithfully to one another to produce an organotypic model of sensory ganglion tissue.

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