Subcellular fractions of the bovine posterior pituitary, including one composed almost exclusively of pinched-off nerve endings (neurosecretosomes), were characterized electron microscopically, hormonally, and enzymically. 15% of the nerve terminals in the gland were isolated as neurosecretosomes, as estimated from determinations of lactic dehydrogenase, a soluble, cytoplasmic enzyme. Neurosecretosomes were subdivided into three fractions by density-gradient centrifugation. The three subfractions, each shown to be nearly homogeneous populations of neurosecretosomes by means of electron microscopic and enzymic criteria, differed from each other in their vasopressin/oxytocin (VP/OT) ratios. The VP/OT ratio increased from the lightest to the densest fraction, indicating that VP is localized to denser and OT to lighter neurosecretosomes; similar results have been obtained previously for subfractions of neurosecretory granules (NSG). No morphological differences were apparent in neurosecretosomes among the three subfractions. Although complete separation of VP and OT was not achieved, the findings suggest that VP and OT are each stored in a different species of nerve ending and support the hypothesis that a given neurosecretory cell synthesizes, stores, and secretes only one of the peptide hormones. Microvesicles, 40–80 mµ diameter and contained in typical neurosecretory cell terminals, are believed to be degradation products of membrane ghosts of depleted NSG; electron micrographs indicative of this transformation are presented. A fraction rich in microvesicles, but containing some NSG membranes, was prepared by density-gradient centrifugation of an osmolysate of neurosecretosomes. Smaller, apparently nonneurosecretory nerve endings, lacking NSG but filled with small vesicles, are occasionally seen in sections from whole gland. The vesicles in these atypical posterior pituitary nerve endings may be true neurohumor-containing, "synaptic" vesicles.

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