Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Developmental alterations of paranodal fiber segments have not been investigated systematically in human nerve fibers at the light- and electron-microscopic level. We have therefore analyzed developmental changes in the fine structure of the paranode in 43 human sural nerves during the axonal growth period up to 5 years of age, and during the subsequent myelin development up to 20 years and thereafter. The nodal, internodal, and paranodal axon diameters reach their adult values at 4–5 years of age. The ratio between internodal and paranodal axon diameters remains constant at 1.8–2.0. Despite a considerable increase in myelin sheath thickness, the length of the paranodal myelin sheath attachment zone at the axon does not increase correspondingly, because of attenuation, separation from the axolemma, and piling up of myelin loops in the paranode. Separation of variable numbers of terminal myelin loops from the underlying axolemma results in the formation of bracelets of Nageotte, whereas the transverse bands of these loops disappear. The adaptation of the paranodal myelin sheath to axonal expansion during development probably occurs by uneven gliding of the paranodal myelin loops simultaneously with internodal slippage of myelin lamellae. Since mechanically stabilizing structures (tight junctions and desmosomes between adjacent paranodal myelin processes; transverse bands between myelin loops and paranodal axolemma) are unevenly arranged, especially during rapid axonal growth, paranodal axonal growth with simultaneous adaptation of the myelin sheath is probably discontinuous with time.
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