Nucelolar morphology was studied by electron microscopy in control and actinomycin D-treated populations of Tetrahymena pyriformis (W) during the cultural growth cycle. Nucleoli exhibit an "aging" cycle concomitant with the cultural growth cycle, but independent of the individual cell cycle. Four different stages in the course of this aging process have been defined. Stage 1 occurs upon inoculation (low number of cells per milliliter) and lasts through lag and accelerating growth phases. In this stage, many small nucleoli are found at the nuclear periphery. In stages 2 and 3, nucleolar fusion begins. Stage 2 dominates the first half of logarithmic growth, and stage 3 dominates the second half. In late decelerating growth phase, the nucleoli enter stage 4. In this stage, only a few large nucleoli are present and these are apparently inactive in ribosome production. In stationary phase, where total RNA remains constant, only stage 4 nucleoli are present. The relative preponderance of granular vs. fibrous components in the nucleoli changes during this cycle, the granular component dominating stage 1 nucleoli and the fibrillar, stage 4 nucleoli. There is a shortening of the intermediate nucleolar stages in the treated cultures; fusion occurs early and is now pronounced. Not enough ribosomes accumulate to carry the treated cultures through the number of generations equivalent to those of the control, which produces a premature stationary phase.

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