Glossary

astrocyte The most abundant neuroglial cell type in the brain; named for its characteristic star-like shape due to processes extending radially from the cell body.

ependymoglial cells Glial cells that extend processes to the ventricular lumen in the brain and establish contact with the apical surface of neural tissue.

glial fibrillary acidic protein Type III intermediate filament protein used as a marker to identify mature cerebral astrocytes.

glial limitans Continuous layer at the surface of the cortex and cerebellum formed by the endfeet of radial glial cells.

gliosis Also called reactive astrocytosis; astrocytic response to injury or insult, marked histologically by the accumulation of glial fibers composed of glial fibrillary acidic protein.

microglia Resident macrophage of the brain; primary immune effector cell of the brain.

multipotential stem cells Cells derived from the neuroepithelium of the developing central nervous system that can give rise to different cell types.

myelin Specialized tissue high in lipid content that insulates the axons of neurons; produced in the brain by oligodendrocytes.

neuroglia The cells of the brain, excluding neurons; basic subtypes include astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, microglial, and ependymoglial cells.

oligodendrocyte Neuroglial cell type responsible for the production of myelin.

There are four major types of glial cells in the human brain—astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, microglia, and ependymal cells. This article will review the morphology and normal physiology of the various glial subtypes as well as their involvement in human brain disorders. Although glial cells comprise greater than 50% of the total population in the brain, historically they have been thought of solely as support cells for neurons. However, it has become apparent that the various glial cells perform critical functions during the development and normal functioning of the brain. Additionally, glial cells are central participants in almost all CNS disorders, taking part in both the protection or damage of brain tissue.

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