Alterations produced by iodoacetate in visual cells have been studied under the electron microscope. Lesions of the outer segments of the rods are visible as early as 3 hours after a single injection of 20 mg. iodoacetate per kg. body weight. After 6 hours the changes are more marked and consist then of disorganization, vesiculation, and lysis of the rod sacs. The inner segments of most rod cells show swelling and vacuolization of the matrix, the endoplasmic reticulum, and the Golgi complex. The mitochondria of the ellipsoid show a tendency to disintegrate. In some inner segments the changes consist primarily in an increase in density of the matrix and deposition of a granular material. The rod synapses are also affected, showing lysis of the synaptic vesicles and alterations of the synaptic membrane.
With a second injection of 20 mg. iodoacetate per kg. body weight, all these changes become more marked and lead to complete destruction of the rod cells.
The cones seem more resistant than the rods. A single injection produces no visible changes in the outer or inner segments of the cones. At cone synapses, however, there are changes consisting of fusion of synaptic vesicles and other membranous material to form large concentric membranes characteristic of myelin figures. A second dose of the drug causes complete destruction of the cone cells.
All these, and other submicroscopic changes, are discussed in relation to various hypotheses put forward to explain the mode of action of iodoacetate on visual cells. The pronounced alterations of submicroscopic intracellular membranes suggest that the locus of action of iodoacetate may be a component widely dispersed throughout the visual cells and related, in some way, to the maintenance of these lipoprotein structures.