The microtubule-depolymerizing drug Nocodazole has been used to experimentally manipulate the form of PC12 neurites. Both time-lapse photography and serial electron microscopy demonstrate that microtubule depolymerization leads to varicosity formation due to a clustering of membranous organelles in young neurites (nerve growth factor activated within 7 d). Neurites that have been nerve growth factor activated 7 or more d before Nocodazole application are resistant to microtubule depolymerization. These data and data from previous papers has been combined in an attempt to predict quantitatively the volume and the shape of a neurite. The relationship is described mathematically by Vn = 4.52 Vo + 0.0054 MTl, where Vn is local neurite volume, Vo is organelle volume, and MTl is MT length (the constant, 0.0054 is micron2), and 4.52 is the obligatory volume constant derived from serial electron microscopic studies. The equation predicts the total volume of neurites despite alterations of morphology due to Nocodazole and despite changes in morphology during development.

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