The purpose of this study was to investigate the main sensory trigeminal nucleus in the aging rat brain by means of electron microscope. Male Sprague-Dawley rats, two (control group) and thirty six (aging group) months of age, were used. These animals were sacrificed by perfusion fixation with 2.5% glutaraldehyde-2.0% paraformaldehyde (0.1M phosphate buffer, pH 7.4) under sodium pentobarbital. The objective area was punched out with a sharp-edged metal cylinder of 0.8 mm in diameter. These blocks of tissue were then washed in 0.1M phosphate buffer, postfixed in 2% osmium tetroxide, dehydrated in a graded series of ethyl alcohol, and embedded in Epon 812. Thin sections were cut with Super Nova ultramicrotome, pick up on grids and double stained with lead citrate and uranyl acetate, and observed in JEOL 100B electron microscope. The results were as follows: 1. In the control group, the neuronal cell body of the main sensory trigeminal nucleus was filled with nucleus, Golgi complex, Nissl substance, mitochondria, microfilaments and microtubules. However, few Nissl substances are seen in neuronal cell body. Axoaxonic synapse, axodendritic synapse, axosomatic synapse, axospinous synapse, myelinated and unmyelinated nerve fibers were well organized around cell bodies. Neurons with abnormal changes were not seen. 2. In the aging group, the neuronal cell body of the main sensory trigeminal nucleus contained large number of lipofuscin granules, dense body and swollen mitochondria. Terminal boutons contained glycogen, crystal-like vesicle and membranous indicating first signs of degeneration. The dendrites were found to be in synaptic contact with altered axon terminals. Frequently axons filled with dark axoplasn and splitted myelin sheath were noticed.
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