The fine structure of mitochondria and smooth endoplasmic reticulum (SER) was studied via electron microscopy in dendritic and axonal neuronal segments of hippocampal areas CA1, CA3, and dentate gyrus (DG) of both ground squirrels in normothermic and hibernating conditions, and rats. Ultrathin serial sections of approximately 60 nm (up to 150 per series) were taken and three-dimensional (3D) reconstructions made of dendritic segments, up to 36 microm in length. Mitochondria were demonstrated to be present in filamentous form in every dendrite examined, in each of the hippocampal regions studied, whether in rat or ground squirrel. In addition, apparent continuity between the outer mitochondrial membrane and that of SER was observed by 3D reconstructions of very ultrathin (20 nm) serial sections prepared from dendritic segments. It is believed that SER penetrate into the heads of thin and mushroom spines but mitochondria do not enter the heads of these types of spines in dentate gyrus or CA1 of either rat or ground squirrel. However, in CA3 we have shown here that mitochondria penetrate into the base of the large thorny excrescences. Mushroom dendritic spines (but not thin spines) contained puncta adherentia, formed between pre- and postsynaptic membranes. In contrast to dendrites, the mitochondrial population of axonal processes in the same hippocampal regions were found only in the form of discrete bodies no more than 3 microm in length. The issue of the likely function of this network in dendrites and its potential role in calcium movement is discussed.
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