We investigated compartment-specific water diffusion properties in two widely structurally different isolated bovine nerves. Sciatic and optic nerves were immersed in saline containing Gd-DTPA(2+). Consequently, T(1) became non-monoexponential and fit well to a biexponential function. q-Space diffusion data were collected for each component. In the sciatic nerve, the slow-decaying component (T,,) was considerably more restricted and directional than the fast-decaying component (T(1f)). In the optic nerve, fractional anisotropy of both components was comparable and similar to that of the total H(2)O signal. The root mean square of the displacement distribution functions of T(1s) correlated well with the widely different axonal diameters of both nerves. Possibly, the Source of T1, is the intra-axonal compartment and that of T(1f) is associated with the inter-axonal space. The compartment specificity of the method shown makes it useful for the investigation of the contribution of each nerve compartment to diffusion tensor imaging measurements and other diffusion-based methods. (C) 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.