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J Cell Biol. 1976 Aug;70(2 pt 1):419-39.

Low resistance junctions in crayfish. Structural changes with functional uncoupling.


Electrical uncoupling of crayfish septate lateral giant axons is paralleled by structural changes in the gap junctions. The changes are characterized by a tighter aggregation of the intramembrane particles and a decrease in the overall width of the junction and the thickness of the gap. Preliminary measurements indicate also a decrease in particle diameter. The uncoupling is produced by in vitro treatment of crayfish abdominal cords either with a Ca++, Mg++-free solution containing EDTA, followed by return to normal saline (Van Harreveld's solution), or with VAn Harreveld's solution containing dinitrophenol (DNP). The uncoupling is monitored by the intracellular recording of the electrical resistance at a septum between lateral giant axons. The junctions of the same septum are examined in thin sections; those of other ganglia of the same chain used for the electrical measurements are studied by freeze-fracture. In controls, most junctions contain a more or less regular array of particles repeating at a center to center distance of approximately 200 A. The overall width of the junctions is approximately 200 A and the gap thickness is 40-50 A. Vesicles (400-700 A in diameter) are closely apposed to the junctional membranes. In uncoupled axons, most junctions contain a hexagonal array of particles repeating at a center to center distance of 150-155 A. The overall width of the junctions is approximately 180 A and the gap thickness is 20-30 A. These junctions are usually curved and are rarely associated with vesicles. Isolated, PTA-stained junctions, also believed to be uncoupled, display similar structural features. There are reasons to believe that the changes in structure and permeability are triggered by an increase in the intracellular free Ca++ concentration. Most likely, the changes in permeability are caused by conformational changes in some components of the intramembrane particles at the gap junctions.

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