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J Struct Biol. 1991 Dec;107(3):268-80.

Zones of membrane adhesion in the cryofixed envelope of Escherichia coli.

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Institute for Cancer Research, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19111.


The envelopes of Escherichia coli B and E. coli K29 were examined using cryofixation and freeze substitution. Emphasis was directed toward the question whether membrane adhesion zones (which connect inner membrane (IM) and outer membrane (OM) after plasmolysis in 10-20% sucrose) can be visualized with the use of cryotechniques. Plasmolysis in 10-20% sucrose was observed to have no effect on cell viability. We found that simple plunge-freezing methods preserve adhesion sites, whereas these sites were not observed after impact-freezing. Also, plasmolysis "bays," visible in light microscopic preparations of living cells, were seen to be maintained intact after plunge-freezing. Employment of photocrosslinking with UV-flashes before or after plasmolysis showed a significant increase in the number of adhesion areas compared to noncrosslinked specimens. To control the contact speed of the specimen during immersion into the cryogen, a hollow rotor was constructed in which the cryogenic liquid is moving at desired high speeds. Adhesion sites presented themselves in the plasmolyzed cell as sites of close contact of the outer and inner membrane, an arrangement that would leave very limited space for peptidoglycan layers at the contact site of the two membranes. Adhesion sites may occur either as single, isolated sites or within stretches of IM/OM apposition where they appear to function as "spot welds" between the two membranes. Exposure of cells to sucrose concentrations of 35% caused rupture of adhesions with cytoplasmic fragments remaining attached to the envelope. The cryofixation procedures described here do not presently yield the number of membrane adhesions obtainable with conventional aldehyde fixation. However, since the combination of millisecond photocrosslinking and cryofixation of plasmolyzed cells resulted in a higher membrane stabilization and in an increase of the number of adhesion sites, this combination appears to be a useful tool for the analysis of sensitive membrane structures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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