Dorsal root ganglion nerve cells undergoing axon elongation in vitro have been analyzed ultrastructurally. The growth cone at the axonal tip contains smooth endoplasmic reticulum, vesicles, neurofilaments, occasional microtubules, and a network of 50-A in diameter microfilaments. The filamentous network fills the periphery of the growth cone and is the only structure found in microspikes. Elements of the network are oriented parallel to the axis of microspikes, but exhibit little orientation in the growth cone. Cytochalasin B causes rounding up of growth cones, retraction of microspikes, and cessation of axon elongation. The latter biological effect correlates with an ultrastructural alteration in the filamentous network of growth cones and microspikes. No other organelle appears to be affected by the drug. Removal of cytochalasin allows reinitiation of growth cone-microspike activity, and elongation begins anew. Such recovery will occur in the presence of the protein synthesis inhibitor cycloheximide, and in the absence of exogenous nerve growth factor. The neurofilaments and microtubules of axons are regularly spaced. Fine filaments indistinguishable from those in the growth cone interconnect neurofilaments, vesicles, microtubules, and plasma membrane. This filamentous network could provide the structural basis for the initiation of lateral microspikes and perhaps of collateral axons, besides playing a role in axonal transport.

This content is only available as a PDF.