X-ray diffraction patterns have been recorded from sciatic nerve myelin by means of dynamic X-ray diffraction either from frogs, during the early stages of anesthesia in vivo induced by n-pentane inhalation, and from frog and rat sciatic nerves isolated immediately after the animal was anesthetized. This approach has enabled to resolve minor changes in myelin structure that occur during anesthesia which were found to be similar in frogs and mammals. The X-ray patterns show a reversible slight decrease in intensity of the even reflections during anesthesia. The electron density profiles from myelin of anesthetized and recovered nerves revealed that the unit membrane structure is practically identical in both circumstances. However, during anesthesia myelin membrane pairs move toward the cytoplasmic side becoming more closely packed by 1.6 Å. Physiological activity was estimated during the recovery process: compound action potential recovered its maximal amplitude before myelin recovered its native structure. On the contrary, the conduction velocity seemed to be closely related to the structural recovery. This work provides evidence that early stages of anesthesia by n-pentane in vivo does not change membrane bilayer structure but perturbs the surface interactions between adjacent membrane pairs. © 1986.
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