Journal of Neurocytology

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 393–411 | Cite as

The axoplasmic reticulum within myelinated axons is not transported rapidly

  • Mark H. Ellisman
  • James D. Lindsey


The axoplasmic reticulum in myelinated axons is an extensive system of branched smooth membranous tubules which is found throughout the length of large axons. To investigate its motility and possible role in fast axonal transport, a focal chilling method was used to arrest transport at two sites separated by a 3 mm wide warm region along the saphenous nerve of mice. The experiments ran for 3–4 h since axoplasmic material travelling faster than 25 mm/day would clear from the central warm region. The nerve was subsequently fixed and processed by a technique that enhances the electron density of the axoplasmic reticulum. Thin and thick sections from several regions along the nerve were then systematically studied using conventional and high voltage electron microscopy. In these studies we found that: 1. the axoplasmic reticulum does not accumulate against the proximal sides of the cold blocks; 2. although often closely associated, there is no evidence of continuity between the axoplasmic reticulum and the discrete membranous compartments that do accumulate proximal to the chilled regions; 3. the axoplasmic reticulum remains in the central 3 mm wide warm region; 4. the axoplasmic reticulum does not accumulate against the distal sides of the cold blocks; 5. retrogradely moving elements that do accumulate distal to the cold blocks do not fuse with the axoplasmic reticulum and are not contained in it; and 6. both retrograde and anterograde vector types are often closely associated with elements of axoplasmic reticulum. These results were supported by quantitative morphometric analysis. We conclude that the axoplasmic reticulum represents a discrete membrane system, separate from either anterogradely or retrogradely moving rapid transport vectors, and that this interconnected cisternal system itself is not rapidly transported.


Axonal Transport Myelinated Axon Voltage Electron Proximal Side Saphenous Nerve 
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Copyright information

© Chapman and Hall Ltd. 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark H. Ellisman
    • 1
  • James D. Lindsey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeurosciencesUniversity of California, San Diego, School of MedianeLa JollaUSA

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