Varicose projection astrocytes (VP-As) are found in the cerebral cortex and have been described to be specific to humans and chimpanzees. To further examine the phylogenetic distribution of this cell type, we analyzed cortical tissue from several primates ranging from primitive primates to primates evolutionary closer to human such as apes. We specifically analyzed tissue from four strepsirrhine species, one tarsier, six species of platyrrhine monkeys, ten species of cercopithecoid monkeys, two hylobatid ape species, four to six cases each of chimpanzee, bonobo, gorilla, and orangutan, and thirteen human. We found that VP-As were present only in human and other apes (hominoids) and were absent in all other species. We showed that VP-As are localized to layer VI and the superficial white matter of the cortex. The presence of VP-As co-occured with interlaminar astrocytes that also had varicosities in their processes. Due to their location, their long tangential processes, and their irregular presence within species, we propose that VP-As are astrocytes that develop varicosities under specific conditions and that are not a distinct astrocyte type.
- cerebral cortex