Living chick spinal ganglion neurons grown for 19 to 25 days in vitro were photographed with a color-translating ultraviolet microscope (UV-91) at 265, 287, and 310 mµ. This instrument was unique in permitting rapid accumulation of ultraviolet information with minimal damage to the cell.
In the photographs taken at 265 mµ of the living neurons, discrete ultraviolet-absorbing cytoplasmic masses were observed which were found to be virtually unchanged in appearance after formalin fixation. These were identical with the Nissl bodies of the same cells seen after staining with basic dyes. The correlation of ultraviolet absorption, ribonuclease extraction, and staining experiments with acid and basic dyes confirmed the ribonucleoprotein nature of these Nissl bodies in the living and fixed cells.
No change in distribution or concentration of ultraviolet-absorbing substance was observed in the first 12 ultraviolet photographs of a neuron, and it is concluded that the cells had not been subjected to significant ultraviolet damage during the period of photography.
On the basis of these observations, as well as previous findings with phase contrast microscopy, it is concluded that Nissl bodies preexist in the living neuron as discrete aggregates containing high concentrations of nucleoprotein.