Smooth muscle cells of different densities to transmission of electrons (termed light and dark cells) were found in rat myometrium examined in the electron microscope following fixation by immersion in glutaraldehyde. Light cells accounted for about 4% of the total population of cells. No light cells were found in tissues fixed in situ by intraarterial perfusion with glutaraldehyde. In addition to staining differences, light cells were distinguished from most dark cells by differences in nuclear, mitochondrial, endoplasmic reticular, and surface structures. The relative number of light and dark cells after in vitro fixation was not changed in tissues relaxed with adrenaline or contracted with oxytocin. Mechanical injury resulted in increased numbers of light cells. Similarly, chemical injury with metabolic inhibitors resulted in ATP depletion, followed by increased numbers of light cells and gain in water content. We concluded that light cells were produced by mechanical or metabolic damage, leading to loss of volume control mechanisms, swelling, and leakage of protein. Light cells found after fixation in vitro in numerous prior studies represent cells damaged during isolation, and not a physiological variant among smooth muscle cells.