Three dimensional (3D) reconstruction and modelling software was evaluated to find a procedure suitable for visualization of small subcellular structures in transmission electron microscope images. The method applied in this study demonstrates bizarre alterations of the structure of synaptic bodies (SBs) in pinealocytes of the guinea-pig pineal gland caused by constant illumination. It can, in general, be used for any 3D reconstruction from serial sections. Pineal glands of five guinea-pigs (two kept under a LD cycle of 12:12 h; three kept in constant light, for 4 months) were investigated. SBs consist of an electron-dense centre with attached vesicles. Under normal lighting conditions most SBs are flat plates (about 35 nm in thickness), which eventually may be bent. The proteins comprising the molecular basis of SBs, mainly RIBEYE A and B are polymerised in a regular manner in these plates. This is not the case in other SBs, which appear as spheres or irregular lumps. SBs lie in groups in which usually some of the plates are arranged in parallel arrays Constant illumination caused different changes in morphology: many of the SBs lie in 'paired fields', i.e. appear in groups attached to the cell membranes of two pinealocytes directly opposite to each other. Some of the SBs in such groups are strongly bent, showing blebs and irregular thickened areas, others seem to aggregate and show inclusions of cytoplasm. Further goblet-like, shield-like and other bizarre forms of SBs occurred and the relative number of spheroid and lump-like SBs increased. Protrusions on larger SBs suggest detachment or fusion of SB material to a greater extent than in the control animals. There is a reduction of areas in which the polymerisation of the SB proteins remains well ordered, i.e. where the typical thickness of 35 nm is maintained. It remains unclear why this polymerisation pattern is only partly affected by constant light. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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