This radioautographic study was designed to localize the cytological sites involved in the incorporation of a lipid precursor into the myelin and the myelin-related cell of the peripheral nervous system. Both myelinating and fully myelinated cultures of rat dorsal root ganglia were exposed to a 30-min pulse of tritiated choline and either fixed immediately or allowed 6 or 48 hr of chase incubation before fixation. After Epon embedding, light and electron microscopic radioautograms were prepared with Ilford L-4 emulsion. Analysis of the pattern of choline incorporation into myelinating cultures indicated that radioactivity appeared all along the length of the internode, without there being a preferential site of initial incorporation. Light microscopic radioautograms of cultures at varying states of maturity were compared in order to determine the relative degree of myelin labeling. This analysis indicated that the myelin-Schwann cell unit in the fully myelinated cultures incorporated choline as actively as did this unit in the myelinating cultures. Because of technical difficulties, it was not possible to determine the precise localization of the incorporated radioactivity within the compact myelin. These data are related to recent biochemical studies indicating that the mature myelin of the central nervous system does incorporate a significant amount of lipid precursor under the appropriate experimental conditions. These observations support the concept that a significant amount of myelin-related metabolic activity occurs in mature tissue; this activity is considered part of an essential and continuous process of myelin maintenance and repair.

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