We have studied the organization of the cytoskeleton in both unstimulated and stimulated cultured chromaffin cells, as well as its relationship with their secretory process by exocytosis. We found the spatial heterogeneity in the intensity of cortical rhodamine-phalloidin staining within a cell. The overall staining pattern or intensity was minimally altered after stimulation, although dopamine-beta-hydroxylase (DBH) antigen, a marker for the chromaffin granule membrane, was exposed preferentially on the plasma membrane areas with lower intensity of rhodamine-phalloidin staining. Using the quick-freeze, deep-etch technique, we found the heterogeneity in the organization of cortical cytoskeletal networks--some regions have actin filament bundles running parallel to the plasma membrane interspersed between granules and the plasma membrane, while others have few actin filaments beneath the plasma membrane before stimulation. Actin filaments were rarely observed in the inner cytoplasm. We did not observe the overall change in its organization after stimulation. Double-label immunogold EM using anti-DBH antibody and anti-actin antibody combined with statistical analysis showed that (1) DBH was exposed on the plasma membrane preferentially where actin was sparse after stimulation (significant at less than 0.1%), although (2) regions having sparse actin were not always the sites for DBH exposure, and (3) the cortical actin zone was sometimes disrupted at the DBH-exposed sites after stimulation. The present data suggested that (1) secretion is related to heterogeneous organization of cortical cytoskeleton after stimulation and (2) massive synchronized reorganization of the cytoskeleton in the whole cell is not necessary for secretion, although small changes of the cytoskeleton might occur under local regulation at each exocytotic site at the moment of the release.