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Chapter 9

Nerve tissue
1. General Characteristics
 A. Made up of 2 types of cells: nerve cells or neurons --
structural and functional unit; glial cells or neuroglia --
supporting, protecting and nourishing neurons.
 B. Neurons have unique processes and contact with each
other via synapses forming neural network and circuit.
 C. Nervous tissue makes up nervous system. The central
nervous system (CNS) consists of the brain and spinal
cord; the peripheral nervous system (PNS) comprises
ganglia, nerves and nerve endings.
 D. Function -- integrating and coordinating body activity.
2. Neuron
Most neurons consist of three parts:
---cell body: spherical, pyramidal, fusiform or stellate
in shape, 5µm-150µm
---dendrite: like branches of tree
---axon: long thin cord-liked
2) Structure of neuron
① Cell body (perinuclear cytoplasm, perikaryon)
---Nucleus: large, spherical, and pale-staining with a
prominent nucleolus, indicating intense synthetic
a. Nissl body:
LM: coarse or fine basophilic particles
EM: clusters of RER plus free ribosomes
Function: synthesis of proteins
structural proteins
proteins for transport
b. Neurofibrils

•LM: Thin threads with silver

• EM:
Neurofilaments and
• Function:
serve as cytoskeleton, and
are involved in
transportation of substances.
c. other organelles

 Golgi complex
 Mitochondria
 Lysosome
 Lipofuscin is increased in number with age.
② Dendrites:
 One or more dendrites / neuron.
 Usually short and thick, and
tapered as they branch and
rebranch like a tree.
 Have numerous dentritic spines
on the surfaces, representing
sites of synaptic contact.
 Contain similar organelles to
perikarya, especially Nissl
 Main function is to receive
information from other neurons
and conduct it to the parent cell
 Only one axon / neuron.
 Usually long and thin with uniform diameter, does not branch profusely,
but may have collaterals.
 Arises from a conical region called the axon hillock that derives from the
perikaryon. The axon and axon hillock are devoid of Nissl bodies.
 Ends in several terminal branches called axon terminals or buttons, which
contain vesicles with neurotransmitters in them.
 Conduct impulses away from one neuron to other neurons or to effector
cells such as muscle or gland cells.
* Axonal transports:
 slow anterograde: proteins and
actin filaments.
 Intermediate anterograde:
 fast anterograde: transports the
substances contained in synaptic
 A retrograde flow: transports the
several molecules, inclding material
taken up by endocytosis( including
viruses and toxins), to the cell body.
3) Classification
---According to number of processes
 multipolar neuron, which have more than two cell
processes, one process being the axon and the others dendrites;
 bipolar neuron, with one dendrite and one axon.

 pseudounipolar neuron,
single process, soon divides
into two in a T-shape, with
one branch extending to a
peripheral ending and the
other toward the CNS.
---According to the functional roles

 sensory neuron (afferent neuron): are involved in
the reception of sensory stimuli from the environment
and from within the body.

 motor neuron (efferent neuron): control effector

 interneuron: establish relationships among other
neurons, forming complex functional network.
3. Synapse
---Definition: synapses are sites of functional contact
between neurons or between neuron and other
effector cells

 Chemical synapse: use a chemical mediator
(neurotransmitter) to transmit impulses in one

 Electrical synapse: permit direct flow of electrical
current between two neurons (gap junction).
Neurotransmitters and Neuromodulators

 Neurotransmitters are chemicals that , when
combined with a receptor protein, either open or close
ion channels or initiate second-messenger cascades.

 Neuromodulators are chemical messengers that
do not act directly on synapses but modify neuron
sensitivity to synaptic stimulation or inhibition.
Types of synapses
 Axosomatic
 Axodendritic
 Axoaxonic
Ⅰ.Chemical synapse
LM: in silver preparation, there are many button-liked
structures on the surface of dendrites and cell body,
called synaptic button
Synaptic buttons
Presynaptic terminal
Synaptic cleft
Postsynaptic terminal
1)Presynaptic terminal
Axon terminal
 presynaptic membrane
 synapse vesicle:
--round or flattened,
--clear or with electron dense core
--contain neurotransmitters
or neuromodulators

 mito, SER, microtubule and microfilament
2)Synaptic cleft:
Extracellular space between pre- and
postsynaptic membranes.

3)Postsynaptic terminal:
 postsynaptic membrane
 receptors
The sequence of events during synapse activity.
 When the nerve impulse reaches
the presynaptic terminal, the
synaptic vesicle fused with the
presynaptic membrane and
discharges the neurotransmitters
into the synaptic cleft by
 The neurotransmitter then diffuses
across the cleft and combines with
specific receptor molecules in the
postsynaptic membrane.
 The reaction between the
transmitter and the receptor
molecules induces an increase in
the permeability of the
postsynaptic membrane and
causes a change in the membrane
potential of the postsynaptic
Ⅱ. Electrical synapse

This type of synapse transmit ionic signals through gap junctions
that cross the pre- and postsynaptic membranes, thereby
conducting neuronal signals directly.
4. Glial cell (neuroglia)
 Glial cells are supporting cells
within the nervous system. They
are non-excitable and do not
conduct nerve impulses.

 The nunber of glial cells is 5 to 10
times the number of neurons.

 Most glial cells possess processes.
However, unlike neurons, the
processes of glial cells cannot be
classified as dendrites and axon.

 In routine HE histological
preparation, only the nuclei of
glial cells can be seen. Such nuclei
are smaller than those of neurons
and lack of nucleoli.
Ⅰ. Astrocyte
 star-shaped cells with multiple
radiating processes.
 Have bundles of intermediate
filament that reinforce their structure.
 end feet: to form glia limitans or
vascular feet--constitute blood brain
Fibrous astrocytes:
 Located in the white matter
 with few long, thin processes

Protoplasmic astrocyte:
 Found in the gray matter
 With many short, thick
processes with more branch
 symmetrical
 Serve as structural support and insulation to the neurons;

 Repairing: when the CNS is damaged, astrocytes
proliferate to form cellular scar tissue.

 The end feet constitute blood brain barrier and the
barrier regulates the diffusion of many substances
between the blood and brain.

 It is believed that through the end feet, astrocytes transfer
molecules and ions from the blood to the neurons.
Ⅱ. Oligodendrocyte:

---structure: smaller,
fewer process

their processes form
myelin-sheath of NF in
Ⅲ. Microglia:

---structure: small,
elongated cells with short
irregular processes.

They are phagocytic and
derived from mesoderm
Ⅳ. Ependymal cell:

 cuboidal or low columnar epithelial cells
 apical: microvilli and cilia
 produce cerebrospinal fluid
 ---distribution: ventricle of brain and central canal of
spinal cord
Ⅴ.Schwann cell

Produce the myelin sheath
that provides the
insulation of neurons in
the PNS. One Schwann
cells forms myelin around
a segment of one axon.
(the same oligodendrocyte
forms myelin sheaths for
several nerve fibers.).
5. Nerve fibers
---definition: a nerve fiber is composed of an
axon and a surrounding sheath.

---classification: according to myelin-sheath
 myelinated nerve fiber (MNF)
 unmyelinated nerve fiber
Ⅰ. Myelinated nerve fiber in PNS
1) Basic structure: axon surrounded by myelin sheath and
2) Along its length the nerve fiber is segmented:
 a. The region devoid of myelin sheath and with bare portion of the axon is
known as the node of Ranvier.
 b. Each segment between two consecutive nodes of Ranvier is called an
 c. The neurolemma is the outermost layer of cytoplasm, cell membrane
and basal lamina of Schwann cells.
Longitudinal section and cross section
of myelined nerve fiber
3) Each internode consists of one Schwann cell:
 The myelin sheath results from Schwann cell
plasmalemma winding around the axon many times
and so contains lipids and proteins.( Schwann cell
→invagination and envelop the axon →form mesaxon
→ mesaxon become longer and longer →spiral around
the fiber →form myelin sheath.)
In EM myelin sheath
shows a series of
arranged lamellae,
4)The functional role
 a. Enhancing the speed of conduction along them via
saltatory conduction, i.e., impulses jumping from node
to node, because myelin sheath serves as an insulator.
 b. The thicker axon has the thicker myelin sheath and
longer internode, and in turn has greater conduction
Ⅱ.Myelinated nerve fiber in CNS
 similar to in PNS
 myelin-sheath is formed by flattened ending of
oligodendrocyte’s processes
 one oligodendrocyte can envelop many axons
Ⅲ.Unmyelinated nerve fiber in PNS
 no myelin-sheath and Ranvier node
 one Schwann cell envelops more axons
Ⅳ. Unmyelinated nerve fiber in CNS
 * nothing to envelop the axon---naked axon
Nerves : made up of nerve fibers and connective tissue.
 1. Most nerves are mixed, i.e., contain both sensory
(afferent) and motor (efferent) nerve fibers, and both
myelinated and unmyelinated fibers.
 2. There are 3 connective tissue sheets:
a.Epineurium, a fibrous connective tissue encloses the
entire nerve and also fills the space between bundles of
nerve fibers.
b.Perineurium is a continuous sheet of flattened
epithelium-like cells surrounding each nerve bundles.
c.Endoneurium envelops each nerve fiber. It is a very
thin layer of loose connective tissue.
E: epineurium P: perineurium F: fascis
7. Nerve Ending --
classified into sensory and motor nerve endings
1)Sensory nerve ending
---including free and
encapsulated nerve
①free nerve ending--
responsible for heat,
cold, and pain.
---structure: NF→lose
myelin-sheath → branch
→ distribute in epidermis,
cornea, hair follicle
epithelial cell and CT Chaper 18 P.368
---function: feel cold, hot,
pain and slight touch
Chaper 18 P.368

② Encapsulated N ending
---have CT capsule
a. Tactile (or Meissner) corpuscle
 CT capsule
 Flattened cell--transverse arranged
 NF→lost myelin sheath→spiral flattened cells
---distribution: dermal papillae, especially in tip of finger or toe, palms,
soles and lips
---function: touch receptors
Chaper 18 P.368

b. Lamellar (or Pacinian) corpuscle
 Distributed in subcutaneous tissue, mesentery, ligament
 Composed of CT capsule, concentric lamellae of flattened
cells and internal cylinder with the naked axon inserted in
---Function: feel deep or heavy pressure
Chaper 10 P.195
c. Muscular spindles
 Distributed in skeletal
 Formed by CT capsule,
intrafusal muscle fibers
(thin, striated, nuclei
arranged in chain or
 Nerve fibers end as
annulospiral or flower-
spray endings.
---function: detect muscle
length and change in
muscle length
2)Motor nerve ending :
--in muscular T and gland
& Somatic motor nerve ending
---distribute in skeleton muscle
Motor end plate (MEP)
Myoneural junction

@ A moter nerve fiber innervates many muscle fibers comprising
a motor unit, whereas a muscle fiber is innervated by only one
axon branch.
@ LM: nerve fibers ramify with each terminal dilating
as a plate-like mass and touching a muscle fiber.
Ultrastructure of the MEP. The left drawing shows branching of a small nerve
with a MEP for each muscle fiber.
The axon loses its myelin sheath and dilates, establishing close, irregular
contact with the muscle fiber. Muscle contraction begins with the release of
acetylcholine from the synaptic vesicles. This neurotransmitter causes a local
increase in the permeability of the sarcolemma. The process is transmitted to the
T tubules and SR. SR releases calcium ions that trigger the sliding filament
mechanism of muscle contraction. Thin filaments slide between the thick
filaments and reduce the distance between the Z lines, thereby reducing the size
of all bands except the A band.
Motor neuron. The myelin sheath is
produced by oligodendrocytes in the
central nervous system and by
Schwann cells in the peripheral
nervous system. The neuronal cell
body has an unusually large,
euchromatic nucleus with a well-
developed nucleolus. The perikaryon
contains Nissl bodies, which are also
found in large dendrites. An axon
from another neuron is shown at
upper right. It has 3 end bulbs, one of
which forms a synapse with the
neuron. Note also the 3 motor end-
plates, which transmit the nerve
impulse to striated skeletal muscle
fibers. Arrows show the direction of
the nerve impulse.
Key points
 The cell types that make up nerve tissue;
 General structural features, distribution, classification
and function of neurons;
 The structural components , micro and ultrastructural
features, function and classification of synapses;
 The structural features, classification and function of
glia cells;
 The classification and organization of nerve fibers
and nerves;
 The structural features and classification of nerve