Schmidt-Lanterman clefts in frog sciatic nerves have been studied in thin sections by electron microscopy utilizing permanganate fixation and araldite embedding. It is shown that they are shearing defects in myelin in which the lamellae are separated widely at the major dense lines. Each lamella consisting of two apposed Schwann cell unit membranes ∼ 75 A across traverses the cleft intact. The unit membranes composing each lamella sometimes are slightly (∼ 50 to 100 A) separated in the clefts. The layers between the lamellae contain membranous structures which may be components of the endoplasmic reticulum. These layers are continuous with the outer layer of Schwann cytoplasm and the thin and inconstant cytoplasmic layer next to the axon (Mauthner's sheath). Each of these layers in perfect clefts constitutes a long helical pathway through the myelin from the axon. One of these is connected with Schwann cytoplasm and the other directly with the outside. A type of cross-sectional shearing defect, not hitherto recognized, is described and shown to be a kind of Schmidt-Lanterman cleft.
Incomplete clefts are seen and interpreted as representing stages in a dynamic process whereby the myelin lamellae may be constantly separating and coming together again in life.