Abstract

Video-enhanced contrast-differential interference contrast microscopy has revealed new features of axonal transport in the giant axon of the squid, where no movement had been detected previously by conventional microscopy. The newly discovered dominant feature is vast numbers of "submicroscopic" particles, probably 30- to 50-nanometer vesicles and other tubulovesicular elements, moving parallel to linear elements, primarily in the orthograde direction but also in a retrograde direction, at a range of steady velocities up to +/- 5 micrometers per second. Medium (0.2 to 0.6 micrometer) and large (0.8 micrometer) particles move more slowly and more intermittently with a tendency at times to exhibit elastic recoil. The behavior of the smallest particles and the larger particles during actual translocation suggests that the fundamental processes in the mechanisms of organelle movement in axonal transport are not saltatory but continuous.