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The uncrossed retinofugal fibres in the marsupial Monodelphis domestica form a separate bundle as they pass through the optic chiasm. The uncrossed fibres segregate from the crossed fibres a short distance before they reach the chiasm, gathering as an essentially exclusive bundle in the ventral part of the optic nerve. This bundle then passes laterally through the optic chiasm and into the optic tract. The distinctive position of the uncrossed fibres has allowed us to recognise that, surprisingly, the uncrossed fibres degenerate more rapidly than the rest. Seven days after a monocular enucleation approximately 60-80% of the fibres of the crossed component in the main part of the optic nerve near the chiasm have a normal cross sectional appearance in electron micrographs whereas less than 20% of the fibres in the uncrossed bundle look normal. The rapid degeneration of the uncrossed fibres cannot be related to any morphological parameter of the axons. Their fibre diameters are mainly medium to thick, lying within the range of axon diameters found in the rest of the nerve. The axon-myelin ratios of the uncrossed fibres are also no different from those of the crossed optic fibres. There are no structural peculiarities identifiable with light or electron microscopical methods in either the axons or in the glia of the uncrossed bundle that might account for the more rapid degeneration. There is evidence that the degenerative change in the main part of the optic nerve progresses from the lesion towards the chiasm, and that for the crossed fibres it may progress slightly faster for the thicker than for the thinner fibres. The degeneration in the uncrossed bundle does not fit any of the rules that have been proposed for relating rate of degeneration to fibre diameter. We conclude that the rate of Wallerian degeneration is determined by factors that yet remain to be defined.


Journal article


J Neurocytol

Publication Date





707 - 716


Animals, Axons, Male, Marsupialia, Nerve Degeneration, Nerve Fibers, Neural Pathways, Optic Chiasm, Optic Nerve, Retina, Time Factors