Control and surgical specimens of the annulus showed similar ultrastructural features. Heterogeneity of collagen fibril diameter is an important observation because it is believed that fibril size relates to biomechanical disc function. Fibrous long-spacing collagen may reflect extracellular matrix remodeling or the presence of previous fibril depolymerization followed by repolymerization and reassociation with proteoglycans. Synthetic activity of disc cells is reflected in active rough endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi, and pools of proteoglycans in lacunar spaces and unusual extracellular matrix components that encircle cells and cell clusters. Such components may influence biomechanical quality. Departures from normal extracellular matrix organization of the aging or degenerating disc undoubtedly contribute to decreased biomechanical function of the annulus because they disrupt the normal annulus architecture. This study underscores the need for a fuller understanding of the dynamic relation between disc cells and the surrounding extracellular matrix, which they continually produce and remodel.