Glia have been implicated in a variety of functions in the central nervous system, including the control of the neuronal extracellular space, synaptic plasticity and transmission, development and adult neurogenesis. Perineuronal glia forming groups around neurons are associated with both normal and pathological nervous tissue. Recent studies have linked reduction in the number of perineuronal oligodendrocytes in the prefrontal cortex with human schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders. Therefore, perineuronal glia may play a decisive role in homeostasis and normal activity of the human nervous system.
Here we report on the discovery of novel cell clusters in the telencephala of five healthy Passeriforme, one Psittaciform and one Charadriiforme bird species, which we refer to as Perineuronal Glial Clusters (PGCs). The aim of this study is to describe the structure and distribution of the PGCs in a number of avian species.
PGCs were identified with the use of standard histological procedures. Heterochromatin masses visible inside the nuclei of these satellite glia suggest that they may correspond to oligodendrocytes. PGCs were found in the brains of nine New Caledonian crows, two Japanese jungle crows, two Australian magpies, two Indian mynah, three zebra finches (all Passeriformes), one Southern lapwing (Charadriiformes) and one monk parakeet (Psittaciformes). Microscopic survey of the brain tissue suggests that the largest PGCs are located in the hyperpallium densocellulare and mesopallium. No clusters were found in brain sections from one Gruiform (purple swamphen), one Strigiform (barn owl), one Trochiliform (green-backed firecrown), one Falconiform (chimango caracara), one Columbiform (pigeon) and one Galliform (chick).
Our observations suggest that PGCs in Aves are brain region- and taxon-specific and that the presence of perineuronal glia in healthy human brains and the similar PGCs in avian gray matter is the result of convergent evolution. The discovery of PGCs in the zebra finch is of great importance because this species has the potential to become a robust animal model in which to study the function of neuron-glia interactions in healthy and diseased adult brains.