In the preceding paper (Kobayashi, T., S. Tsukita, S. Tsukita, Y. Yamamoto, and G. Matsumoto, 1986, J. Cell Biol., 102:1710-1725), we demonstrated biochemically that the subaxolemmal cytoskeleton of the squid giant axon was highly specialized and mainly composed of tubulin, actin, axolinin, and a 255-kD protein. In this paper, we analyzed morphologically the molecular organization of the subaxolemmal cytoskeleton in situ. For thin section electron microscopy, the subaxolemmal cytoskeleton was chemically fixed by the intraaxonal perfusion of the fixative containing tannic acid. With this fixation method, the ultrastructural integrity was well preserved. For freeze-etch replica electron microscopy, the intraaxonally perfused axon was opened and rapidly frozen by touching its inner surface against a cooled copper block (4 degrees K), thus permitting the direct stereoscopic observation of the cytoplasmic surface of the axolemma. Using these techniques, it became clear that the major constituents of the subaxolemmal cytoskeleton were microfilaments and microtubules. The microfilaments were observed to be associated with the axolemma through a specialized meshwork of thin strands, forming spot-like clusters just beneath the axolemma. These filaments were decorated with heavy meromyosin showing a characteristic arrowhead appearance. The microtubules were seen to run parallel to the axolemma and embedded in the fine three-dimensional meshwork of thin strands. In vitro observations of the aggregates of axolinin and immunoelectron microscopic analysis showed that this fine meshwork around microtubules mainly consisted of axolinin. Some microtubules grazed along the axolemma and associated laterally with it through slender strands. Therefore, we were led to conclude that the axolemma of the squid giant axon was specialized into two domains (microtubule- and microfilament-associated domains) by its underlying cytoskeletons.

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