In view of reports that the nerve fibers of the sea prawn conduct impulses more rapidly than other invertebrate nerves and look like myelinated vertebrate nerves in the light microscope, prawn nerve fibers were studied with the electron microscope. Their sheaths are found to have a consistent and unique structure that is unlike vertebrate myelin in four respects: (1) The sheath is composed of 10 to 50 thin (200- to 1000-A) layers or laminae; each lamina is a cellular process that contains cytoplasm and wraps concentrically around the axon. The laminae do not connect to form a spiral; in fact, no cytoplasmic continuity has been demonstrated among them. (2) Nuclei of sheath cells occur only in the innermost lamina of the sheath; thus, they lie between the sheath and the axon rather than outside the sheath as in vertebrate myelinated fibers. (3) In regions in which the structural integrity of the sheath is most prominent, radially oriented stacks of desmosomes are formed between adjacent laminae. (4) An ∼200-A extracellular gap occurs around the axon and between the innermost sheath laminae, but it is separated from surrounding extracellular spaces by gap closure between the outer sheath laminae, as the membranes of adjacent laminae adhere to form external compound membranes (ECM's). Sheaths are interrupted periodically to form nodes, analogous to vertebrate nodes of Ranvier, where a new type of glial cell called the "nodal cell" loosely enmeshes the axon and intermittently forms tight junctions (ECM's) with it. This nodal cell, in turn, forms tight junctions with other glial cells which ramify widely within the cord, suggesting the possibility of functional axon-glia interaction.

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