Luminous cells of polynoid worm elytra have been examined by methods of electron microscopy, with special attention focused on the fine structure of photogenic grains. These cells send apical prolongations into the mid-part of the elytra. The plasma membrane is very sinuous, and a special kind of desmosome links two portions of the same membrane. In addition to all the organelles which can be found in nonluminescent epithelial cells of the elytra, numerous photogenic grains are contained in their cytoplasm. These grains are composed of undulating microtubules measuring 200 A in diameter; their disposition in the grain is highly regular, and the grains appear as paracrystals. At the borders of the grains, the walls of the microtubules are often in continuity with those of the endoplasmic reticulum and with the external membrane of the nuclear envelope. Because of this fact, the microtubules of the grains may be considered a cytoplasmic organelle, representing a specialized form of the endoplasmic reticulum. The microtubules permit the repartition, inside and outside their walls, of two different products, one being forty-three times more abundant than the other; thus, the contact surface, in comparison to the volume, is greatly increased. The induction of the luminous reaction by change in the permeability of the microtubule walls, allowing contact between the two substances, is suggested as a working hypothesis.
There is an evolution of the grains along the axis of the photocytes. The grains are often surrounded by progressively increasing amounts of glycogen. Their paracrystalline disposition is altered at the apex of the luminous cells.