Volume and surface area estimates of astrocytes in the sensorimotor cortex of the cat

V. Williams, R. G. Grossman, Sharon M. Edmunds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Electron micrographs of random sections through 133 astrocytes taken from the anterior and posterior sigmoid gyri of adult cats were used to estimate average astrocyte cell volume. Average soma volume was derived by two methods: (1) assuming that each approximated the shape of a prolate spheroid, a value of 2.2 ± 0.1 × 10-13l. was calculated by substituting measurements of major (mean 10.4 ± 0.2 μm) and minor (mean 6.2 ± 0.1 μm) cell axes into the formula for volume; (2) applying Weibel's point-counting method of morphometry, a value of 1.9 ± 0.09 × 10-13l. was obtained based on ratios of volume density and nuclear volume, calculated from measurements of nuclear axes. Because of the use of random sections through the cells sampled, the axial measurements on which both methods depend represent possible underestimations by as much as 21%; the resulting average value for soma volume might be as much as 3.2 × 10-13l. Astrocyte somata from the deepest layer of the cortex had a significantly larger average volume than those from more superficial layers (P < 0.05). Average total cell volume (soma plus processes), estimated by calculating the volume of the tissue sample that was occupied by astrocytes and dividing that value by the number of astrocytes in the sample, amounted to 5.7 × 10-13l. Point-counting morphometry revealed that 15.5% of the cortex consists of astrocytic cytoplasm. Average total cell surface area, estimated from intercepts of grid lines with cell membrane profiles of astrocytes within the sample, was 1.9 × 10-5 cm2; average surface area of astrocyte somata, based on axial measurements, amounted to 2.5 × 10-6 cm2 or 13% of the surface area of the whole cell. Only 18 gap junctions were identified in the random sections through 133 astrocytes; these and other considerations bearing on the possible relationship of the data presented to electrical measurements in living astrocytes are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1151-1159
Number of pages9
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1980

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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