- J. Grosche
- H. Kettenmann
- A. Reichenbach
- Journal of Neuroscience Research
- J Neurosci Res 68 (2): 138-149
It is well established that Bergmann glial cells closely interact with neuronal elements in the molecular layer of the cerebellum. We reconstructed dye-labeled Bergmann glial cells from electron microscopic serial sections and identified their contact sites with neurons as "glial microdomains" (Grosche et al.  Nature Neurosci. 2:139-143). In the present paper we describe these structures in more detail, and show that 1) immature Bergmann fibers up to postnatal day 7 are smooth and lack appendages but contain several large mitochondria at sites where the first indications of growing side branches are observed; 2) Bergmann fibers from cerebella at postnatal day 30 form two types of outgrowths, short simple thorns and longer complex appendages; 3) each of the latter (i.e., a glial microdomain) is in contact with only a few synapses and nonsynaptic neuronal excrescences; 4) every given region of the neuropil is occupied by (at least) two interdigitating glial microdomains; 5) the synaptic clefts are entirely surrounded by glial protrusions, whereas the extrasynaptic surfaces and small axons are only partially covered; and 6) many small neuronal excrescenses without vesicles are completely ensheathed by glial caps, representing novel glial-neuronal structures of unknown function (glial thimbles). Computational modelling of the microdomains indicates that each is electrotonically independent of the stem process from which it arises, as well as of neighbouring domains. We assume that the glial microdomain is a morphological unit to compartimentalize ensembles of synapses, serving to synchronize local synaptic activity.