The fine structure of developing elastic fibers in bovine ligamentum nuchae and rat flexor digital tendon was examined. Elastic fibers were found to contain two distinct morphologic components in sections stained with uranyl acetate and lead. These components are 100 A fibrils and a central, almost amorphous nonstaining area. During development, the first identifiable elastic fibers are composed of aggregates of fine fibrils approximately 100 A in diameter. With advancing age, somewhat amorphous regions appear surrounded by these fibrils. These regions increase in prominence until in mature elastic fibers they are the predominant structure surrounded by a mantle of 100 A fibrils. Specific staining characteristics for each of the two components of the elastic fiber as well as for the collagen fibrils in these tissues can be demonstrated after staining with lead, uranyl acetate, or phosphotungstic acid. The 100 A fibrils stain with both uranyl acetate and lead, whereas the central regions of the elastic fibers stain only with phosphotungstic acid. Collagen fibrils stain with uranyl acetate or phosphotungstic acid, but not with lead. These staining reactions imply either a chemical or an organizational difference in these structures. The significance and possible nature of the two morphologic components of the elastic fiber remain to be elucidated.

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