Degeneration was followed in the garfish olfactory nerve after removal of the mucosa containing the cell bodies. Degeneration, as measured by a decrease in the weight of consecutive 3-mm nerve segments, spreads at constant velocity from the site of injury toward the synaptic area. The proximodistal degeneration is temperature dependent and progresses from 0.3 mm/d at 10 degrees C to 13.0 mm/d at 35 degrees C. Between 14 and 35 degrees C, the velocity increases linearly with temperature. At all the temperatures investigated, these proximodistal degeneration velocities are identical to the rates of slow intraaxonal flow measured in axons detached from their cell bodies, or to the rates measured in regenerating fibers, and, except at 10 degrees C, are 3.3 times faster than the rate of slow flow in intact nerves. These results were confirmed by light and electron microscopy. We hypothesize that the collapse and subsequent degeneration of the axons is the result of a proximodistal depletion of cytoskeletal elements no longer provided by the cell body to the axon by slow intraaxonal flow. A significant number of axons disappeared rapidly from the nerve before the arrival of the slow degenerative wave. From studies by other groups, this rapid degeneration may be the result of a lack of rapidly transported, mainly membranous components.

This content is only available as a PDF.