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Clinical and pathological studies have revealed that in multiple sclerosis (MS) the involvement of the optic tracts is much more frequent than that of the olfactory tracts. To investigate the possible reasons for this difference in involvement of these two adjacent structures, both containing a central type myelin, we have studied optic and olfactory tracts obtained at autopsy from 7 adult males ranging in age from 54 to 64 years. White matter from the frontal poles of the same individuals was used for reference. These tissues were compared with respect to the relative content of a) water, b) soluble proteins, c) 2',3'-cyclic nucleotide 3'- phosphohydrolase (CNP) activity, and d) immunologically precipitable basic protein (BP). Homogenates from these tissues were further compared by disc gel electrophoresis in two systems: phenolformic acid-water and SDS-urea gels. Results indicate that while the optic tracts and the frontal pole white matter were similar with respect to their water, total protein content and BP content, the optic tracts had lower CNP activity and the BP content are true measures of the total myelin content of a given tissue, it appears that olfactory tracts have smaller amounts of myelin. On the other hand, the optic tracts contain only half as much CNP-activity with a disproportionately greater amount of BP. The possible significance of these findings is discussed.

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