Conditions have been established for the fractionation of subcellular components of rat forebrain homogenates by zonal isopycnic equilibration in continuous sucrose density gradients using a B-XIV rotor. The fractions were analyzed biochemically and by ultra-structural morphometry. Starting from postnuclear supernates of forebrain homogenates, it has been possible to resolve three distinct populations of nerve endings from one another, as well as from free mitochondria and myelin fragments. The three types of nerve endings differ in their apparent specific gravity, their biochemical properties, and their ability selectively to accumulate exogenous transmitter substances in vitro. These three particle populations are likely to represent, in order of increasing modal equilibrium density, (a) cholinergic nerve endings, characterized by their high content of acetylcholine, (b) γ-amino butyric acid (GABA)-containing nerve endings with high glutamate decarboxylase activity and the ability to accumulate exogenous GABA, (c) adrenergic nerve endings that accumulate exogenous dopamine and noradrenaline and exhibit high monoamine oxidase activity.

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