Indirect immunocytochemical staining with antisera raised against purified glial filament protein and a neurofilament polypeptide was used to study cell interactions between astrocytes and neurons dissociated from embryonic and early postnatal cerebellum. Staining with antibodies raised against purified glial filament protein revealed that greater than 99% of all processes present in cerebellar cultures during the 1st wk in vitro were glial in origin. After 1 wk in culture, unstained processes that were presumably neuronal were observed. Stained astroglial processes formed a dense network that served as a template for cerebellar neurons, identified by indirect immunocytochemical localization of tetanus toxin. More than 90% of neurons from postnatal days 1 or 7 were positioned within one cell diameter of a glial process. In contrast, less than 40% of the neurons dissociated from early embryonic cerebellum were located adjacent to a glial process. Staining with antibodies raised against purified glial filament protein also revealed differences in astroglial morphology that were under developmental regulation. Astroglial cells from embryonic cerebellum were fewer in number and had thick, unbranched processes. Those from postnatal day 1 were more slender, branched, and stellate. Those from postnatal day 7 were highly branched and stellate. Some veil-like astroglial processes were also observed in cells from postnatal animals. These morphological changes were also observed when cells from embryonic day 13 were maintained for a week in vitro. No specific staining of embryonic or postnatal cerebellum cells was observed with antibodies raised against purified neurofilament polypeptides.

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