Discontinuous Ficoll-sucrose gradients were used to prepare subcellular fractions from mouse cerebral cortex at various stages of postnatal development. Representative samples of each subcellular fraction were obtained by sedimentation in an analytical ultracentrifuge and each fraction was examined quantitatively and qualitatively by electron microscopy. The amount of synaptosomal material was determined for each fraction on the basis of volume percentage, obtained from a series of contiguous micrographs, to circumvent any sampling error. This allowed an accurate appraisal of synaptosomal distribution during neural development and a direct comparison of the Ficoll-sucrose gradient fractions to the original crude mitochondrial preparations. The distribution of synaptosomal material was shown to be quantitatively altered during neural development, and maturation-dependent changes, at a qualitative level, were described. In addition, the relationship between neural maturation and the relative proportion and distribution of subcellular particles which contain processes tentatively identified as growth cones were characterized.

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