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J Struct Biol. 2011 Jul;175(1):49-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2011.04.002. Epub 2011 Apr 13.

Electron tomographic analysis of gap junctions in lateral giant fibers of crayfish.

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Department of Biophysics, Faculty of Science, Kyoto University, Oiwake, Kitashirakawa, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan.


Innexin-gap junctions in crayfish lateral giant fibers (LGFs) have an important role in escape behavior as a key component of rapid signal transduction. Knowledge of the structure and function of characteristic vesicles on the both sides of the gap junction, however, is limited. We used electron tomography to analyze the three-dimensional structure of crayfish gap junctions and gap junctional vesicles (GJVs). Tomographic analyses showed that some vesicles were anchored to innexons and almost all vesicles were connected by thin filaments. High densities inside the GJVs and projecting densities on the GJV membranes were observed in fixed and stained samples. Because the densities inside synaptic vesicles were dependent on the fixative conditions, different fixative conditions were used to elucidate the molecules included in the GJVs. The projecting densities on the GJVs were studied by immunoelectron microscopy with anti-vesicular monoamine transporter (anti-VMAT) and anti-vesicular nucleotide transporter (anti-VNUT) antibodies. Some of the projecting densities were labeled by anti-VNUT, but not anti-VMAT. Three-dimensional analyses of GJVs and excitatory chemical synaptic vesicles (CSVs) revealed clear differences in their sizes and central densities. Furthermore, the imaging data obtained under different fixative conditions and the immunolabeling results, in which GJVs were positively labeled for anti-VNUT but excitatory CSVs were not, support our model that GJVs contain nucleotides and excitatory CSVs do not. We propose a model in which characteristic GJVs containing nucleotides play an important role in the signal processing in gap junctions of crayfish LGFs.

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