Journal of Anatomy

Morphometric and ultrastructural changes with ageing in mouse peripheral nerve

a1 Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Spain


Qualitative and quantitative information is reported on the morphological changes that occur in nerve fibres and nonneuronal cells of peripheral nerve during the lifetime of the mouse. Tibial nerves of mice aged 6–33 mo were studied. With ageing, collagen accumulates in the perineurium and lipid droplets in the perineurial cells. Macrophages and mast cells increase in number, and onion bulbs and collagen pockets are frequently present. Schwann cells associated with myelinated fibres (MF) slightly decrease in number in parallel with an increase of the internodal length from 6 to 12 mo, but increase in older nerves when demyelination and remyelination are common. The unmyelinated axon to myelinated fibre (UA/MF) ratio was about 2 until 12 mo, decreasing to 1.6 by 27 mo. In older mice, the loss of nerve fibres involves UA (50% loss of 27–33 mo cf. 6 mo) more markedly than MF (35%). In aged nerves wide incisures and infolded or outfolded myelin loops are frequent, resulting in an increased irregularity in the morphology of fibres along the internodes. In the mouse there is an adult time period, 12–20 mo, during which several features of degeneration progressively appear, and an ageing period from 20 mo upwards when the nerve suffers a general disorganisation and marked fibre loss.

(Accepted June 29 1999)

Key Words: Peripheral nervous system; nerve fibre maturation; ageing.

c1 Correspondence to Dr Dolores Ceballos, Unitat de Fisiologia, Facultat de Medicina, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, E-08193 Bellaterra, Spain. Tel.: +34-93-5811966; fax: +34-93-5812986.