The relationship between organelle movement and cytoplasmic structure in cultured fibroblasts or epithelial cells was studied using video-enhanced differential interference contrast microscopy and electron microscopy of directly frozen whole mounts. Two functional cytoplasmic domains are characterized by these techniques. A central domain rich in microtubules is associated with directed as well as Brownian movements of organelles, while a surrounding domain rich in f-actin supports directed but often intermittent organelle movements more distally along small but distinct individual microtubule tracks. Differences in the organization of the cytoplasm near microtubules may explain why organelle movements are typically continuous in central regions but usually intermittent along the small tracks through the periphery. The central type of cytoplasm has a looser cytoskeletal meshwork than the peripheral cytoplasm which might, therefore, interfere less frequently with organelles moving along microtubules there.

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