The localization of 3H-labeled cholesterol in nerves undergoing degeneration and regeneration was studied by radioautography at the electron microscope level. Two types of experiments were carried out: (a) Cholesterol-1,2-3H was injected intraperitoneally into suckling mice. 5 wk later, Wallerian degeneration was induced in the middle branch of the sciatic nerve, carefully preserving the collateral branches. The animals were then sacrificed at various times after the operation. During degeneration, radioactivity was found over myelin debris and fat droplets. In early stages of regeneration, radioactivity was found in myelin debris and regenerating myelin sheaths. Afterwards, radioactivity was found predominantly over the regenerated myelin sheaths. Radioactivity was also associated with the myelin sheaths of the unaltered fibers, (b) Wallerian degeneration was induced in the middle branch of the sciatic nerves of an adult mouse, preserving the collateral branches. Cholesterol-1,2-3H was injected 24 and 48 hr after the operation and the animal was sacrificed 6 wk later. Radioactivity was found in the myelin sheaths of the regenerated and unaltered fibers. The results from these experiments indicate that: (a) exogenous cholesterol incorporated into peripheral nerve during myelination remains within the nerve when it undergoes degeneration. Such cholesterol is kept in the myelin debris as an exchangeable pool from which it is reutilized for the formation of the newly regenerating fibers, especially myelin. (b) exogenous cholesterol incorporated into the nerves at the time that degeneration is beginning is also used in the formation of new myelin sheaths during regeneration, (c) mature myelin maintains its ability to incorporate cholesterol.

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