Using freeze-fracture techniques, we have analyzed the glial-axonal junction (GAJ) between Schwann cells and axons in the peripheral nervous system, and between oligodendrocytes and axons in the central nervous system of the rat. We have identified a new set of dimeric-particles arranged in circumferential rows within the protoplasmic fracture faces (P-faces) of the paranodal axolemma in the region of glial-axonal juxtaposition. These particles, 260 A in length, composed of two 115-A subunits, are observed in both aldehyde-fixed and nonfixed preparations. The rows of dimeric-particles within the axonal P-face are associated with complementary rows of pits within the external fracture face (E-face) of the paranodal axolemma. These axonal particles are positioned between rows of 160-A particles that occur in both fracture faces of the glial loops in the same region. We observed, in addition to these previously described 160-A particles, a new set of 75-A glial particles within the glial P-faces of the GAJ. These 75-A particles form rows that are centered between the rows of 160-A particles and are therefore superimposed over the rows of dimeric-particles within the paranodal axolemma. Our new findings are interpreted with respect to methods of specimen preparation as well as to a potential role for the paranodal organ in saltatory conduction. We conclude that this particle-rich junction between axon and glia could potentially provide an intricate mechanism for ion exchange between these two cell types.

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