The nuclear envelope of Xenopus laevis stage VI oocytes was studied in a high-resolution field emission cryo-scanning electron microscope to compare the level of structural preservation obtainable by different procedures of specimen preparation. All approaches generally allowed frequent detection of long filaments of about 10 nm in diameter that were attached to the nuclear envelope's inner membrane facing the nuclear interior. Structural details of these 10-nm filaments, however, could not be unveiled by standard procedures of specimen preparation and analysis, including critical point drying and imaging at room temperature. In contrast, after freeze-drying and imaging at -100 degrees C, the 10-nm filament type was found to be composed of distinct globular subunits of approximately 5 nm in diameter that were arranged in a helical manner with right-handed periodicity. Stereoscopic images showed that some of these filaments were lying directly on the membrane whereas others appeared to hover at a certain distance above the nuclear envelope. The appearance of these filaments was highly similar to that of in vitro polymerized F-actin analysed in parallel, and closely resembled the structural characteristics of F-actin filaments described earlier. By virtue of their structural features we therefore conclude that these filaments at the nuclear periphery represent F-actin. The high level of structural resolution obtainable by field emission cryo-SEM illustrates the potential of this method for studying details of biological structures in a subcellular context.