To identify the structures to be rapidly transported through the axons, we developed a new method to permit local cooling of mouse saphenous nerves in situ without exposing them. By this method, both anterograde and retrograde transport were successfully interrupted, while the structural integrity of the nerves was well preserved. Using radioactive tracers, anterogradely transported proteins were shown to accumulate just proximal to the cooled site, and retrogradely transported proteins just distal to the cooled site. Where the anterogradely transported proteins accumulated, the vesiculotubular membranous structures increased in amount inside both myelinated and unmyelinated axons. Such accumulated membranous structures showed a relatively uniform diameter of 50--80 nm, and some of them seemed to be continuous with the axonal smooth endoplasmic reticulum (SER). Thick sections of nerves selectively stained for the axonal membranous structures revealed that the network of the axonal SER was also packed inside axons proximal to the cooled site. In contrast, large membranous bodies of varying sizes accumulated inside axons just distal to the cooled site, where the retrogradely transported proteins accumulated. These bodies were composed mainly of multivesicular bodies and lamellated membranous structures. When horseradish peroxidase was administered in the distal end of the nerve, membranous bodies showing this activity accumulated, together with unstained membranous bodies. Hence, we are led to propose that, besides mitochondria, the membranous components in the axon can be classified into two systems from the viewpoint of axonal transport: "axonal SER and vesiculotubular structures" in the anterograde direction and "large membranous bodies" in the retrograde direction.

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