Expression of the protein product of c-ret (c-Ret) in the spinal cord of the adult rat was examined immunohistochemically at both electron and light microscopic levels. In the cervical, thoracic and lumbar segments of the spinal cord, a large number of c-Ret immunoreactive cells were found in both ependymal and subependymal layers of the central canal. These cells were ovoid or triangular in shape and had a well developed single cytoprocess which protruded into the central canal. None of the neuropeptides and neuronal markers examined, including substance P, CGRP, galanin, neuropeptide Y, tyrosine hydroxylase, methionine-enkephalin, choline acetyltransferase and glially fibrilally acidic protein, was present in these c-Ret immunoreactive cells in the spinal cord. Ultrastructurally, a desmosome-like structure was found between the apical part of the cytoprocess and the ependymal cell. These morphological observations indicated that c-Ret positive cells are spinal tanycytes. The present results suggest that spinal tanycytes in the rat express a trophic factor receptor and may respond to GDNF in the cerebrospinal fluid.
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