The pattern of Wallerian degeneration in the optic nerve of newborn kittens: An ultrastructural study

Robert D. Cook, Bernardino Ghetti, Henryk M. Wiśniewski

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50 Scopus citations


Following eye enucleation, Wallerian degeneration was studied in optic nerves of newborn kittens, whose age varied from 1 to 14 days at the time of operation. The survival time ranged from 1 to 28 days post-enucleation. The nerves were examined at a distance of 5 mm from the site of transection. Axons yet to be myelinated (non-myelinated) underwent a complete disruption with very little evidence of debris. Most myelinated axons underwent a flocculation and condensation of the axoplasm which resulted in a 'dark' pattern of degeneration. In other myelinated axons there was no evidence of axonal debris and this type of degeneration was termed 'watery'. The latter type of degeneration appeared to be limited to the larger axons. Although almost all axons had degenerated by 4 days post-enucleation, only the 'dark' type persisted for any length of time. The 'dark' pattern was only seen in axons surrounded by several myelin lamellae. Evidence of phagocytosis of myelin was seen 4 days post-enucleation and was performed by oligodendroglia. At 28 days post-operation, very little debris remained and the optic nerve consisted almost entirely of astrocytic scar tissue, among which were scattered oligodendroglia cells that contained many lipid inclusions. These observations are compared with those seen in the adult animal. The rate of axonal degeneration and the subsequent removal of debris is faster in the kitten than that seen in the optic nerve of mature animals and it is suggested that this may be due to the greater metabolic activity of immature tissue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-275
Number of pages15
JournalBrain research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 26 1974
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology

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