P0 protein, the dominant protein in peripheral nervous system myelin, was studied immunocytochemically in both developing and mature Schwann cells. Trigeminal and sciatic nerves from newborn, 7-d, and adult rats were processed for transmission electron microscopy. Alternating 1-micrometer-thick Epon sections were stained with paraphenylenediamine (PD) or with P0 antiserum according to the peroxidase-antiperoxidase method. To localize P0 in Schwann cell cytoplasm and myelin membranes, the distribution of immunostaining observed in 1-micrometer sections was mapped on electron micrographs of identical areas found in adjacent thin sections. The first P0 staining was observed around axons and/or in cytoplasm of Schwann cells that had established a 1:1 relationship with axons. In newborn nerves, staining of newly formed myelin sheaths was detected more readily with P0 antiserum than with PD. Myelin sheaths with as few as three lamellae could be identified with the light microscope. Very thin sheaths often stained less intensely and part of their circumference frequently was unstained. Schmidt-Lanterman clefts found in more mature sheaths also were unstained. As myelination progressed, intensely stained myelin rings became much more numerous and, in adult nerves, all sheaths were intensely and uniformly stained. Particulate P0 staining also was observed in juxtanuclear areas of Schwann cell cytoplasm. It was most prominent during development, then decreased, but still was detected in adult nerves. The cytoplasmic areas stained by P0 antiserum were rich in Golgi complex membranes.

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