An investigation of the structure of meiotic chromosomes from primary spermatocytes of two salamanders, Plethodon cinereus and Desmognathus fusca, has been made using correlated light and electron microscopy. Feulgen squashes were compared with stained sections and these related to adjacent thin sections in the electron microscope. A transition from the familiar cytological preparation to the electron image was thus effected.
A linear complex consisting of three parallel strands has been observed with the electron microscope, passing along the central axis of primary spermatocyte chromosomes. The complex is similar to that found in comparable chromosomes from at least a dozen animal species. The structure in Plethodon is described in detail.
Synapsis has been positively identified as the stage of meiotic prophase at which the complex occurs. Thus the complex is a part of bivalent chromosomes. It has not been seen in other stages or other divisions and is thus thought to be exclusively of synaptic occurrence. The term synaptinemal complex is suggested for the entire structure.
By virtue of the material condensed around it, the complex is also seen in the light microscope where it appears as a fine, densely Feulgen-positive central core along the chromosome. The complex is thus closely associated with DNA, if not at least in part, composed of it.
In the stages studied, homologous chromosomes are not always completely paired. The lateral elements of the complex separate and follow the single chromosome axes at these points. The central element disappears and thus may be a phenomenon of pairing. It is concluded that the lateral elements of the synaptinemal complex may more correctly be a "core" of the single meiotic prophase chromosome, possibly being concerned with its linear organization.