[3H]Inulin (mol wt ≈ 5,500) solutions are microinjected into the cytoplasm of mature oocytes of Rana pipiens and the subsequent movement of the solute recorded by quantitative ultralow temperature autoradiography. The autoradiographs show transient cellular diffusion gradients, the influence of the nucleus on these gradients, and the nuclear:cytoplasmic distribution of inulin. Analysis leads to the following conclusions: (a) Inulin diffuses in cytoplasm at about 3 x 10-6 cm2/s, or one-fifth as rapidly as in water. Most of this decrease is attributable to the increased tortuosity of the diffusional path due to the presence of inclusions and macromolecules. (b) The nuclear envelope is very permeable to inulin; its resistance to inulin's passage is similar to that of cytoplasm. The envelope appears to play a negligible role in regulating the nucleocytoplasmic movement of solutes smaller than macromolecules, (c) Inulin concentrates in the nucleus to four times its cytoplasmic level; this is attributed to solute exclusion from cytoplasmic water. Evidence is presented that among hydrophilic solutes the degree of exclusion increases with molecular size. The potential significance of cytoplasmic exclusion processes to understanding secretion and the intracellular movement of macromolecules is briefly discussed.

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