Cell bodies and their dendrites of motor neurons, motor-related neurons, and certain other subsets of neurons such as GABAergic interneurons in the mature brain and spinal cord possess intensely negatively charged perineuronal or perisynaptic nets of proteoglycans which are linked to the nerve cell surface glycoproteins. These perineuronal nets of proteoglycans are digested by chondroitinase ABC, hyaluronidase, or collagenase, but not by endo-alpha-N-acetylgalactosaminidase, which is reactive to the nerve cell surface glycoproteins. Aggrecan, versican, neurocan, and brevican are members of a family of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans that bind to hyaluronan. Neurocan-or brevican-deficient mice showed a regionally heterogeneous composition of proteoglycans in perineuronal nets. Aggrecan glycoforms contribute to the molecular heterogeneity of the perineuronal nets. Proteoglycans such as phosphacan are included in matrix-associated proteoglycans. The extracellular matrix glycoprotein tenascin-R is accumulated in the perineuronal nets. The perineuronal proteoglycans are produced by associated satellite astrocytes just before weaning, while the nerve cell surface glycoproteins are produced by the associated nerve cells at earlier stages after birth. The perineuronal proteoglycans may entrap the tissue fluid and form a perineuronal gel layer which protects the synapses as a “perisynaptic barrier”. Degradation of the perineuronal proteoglycans or perisynaptic barrier by treatment with chondroitinase ABC or hyaluronidase reactivates the neuronal plasticity or promotes the functional recovery of a severed nervous system. Another set of perineuronal nets occurs, which are intensely positively charged and contain guanidino compounds. It is considered that these intensely positively charged nets are intermingled with the intensely negatively charged ones of proteoglycans.
2003 by International Society of Histology and Cytology