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Tissue Cell. 1976;8(2):248-58.

The sarcolemma of Aplysia smooth muscle in freeze-fracture preparations.


Smooth muscle cells in the sheath covering the visceral ganglion of Aplysia californica were examined with the techniques of freeze-fracture and conventional electron microscopy. The sarcolemma of these muscle cell invaginates to form myriad caveolae that have an intrinsic marker within their membrane. This intrinsic structure of the caveolar membrane is revealed by freeze-fracture and consists of rows of large particles in the outer half and matching grooves on the complementary inner half of the membrane. In thin plastic sections, parallel striations or shelves within the caveolar membrane appear to be the equivalent of the particles and grooves of the fractured membrane. Physical fixation of some specimens by rapid freezing in super-cooled liquid nitrogen or in liquid helium suggests that in their natural state, the caveolar ostia are not uniform in size and that at any given moment a number of caveolae are flattened. When segments of the connective nerves which link the visceral ganglion to the cephalic ganglia are stretched in vitro two to three times their in situ length, the caveolae lose their invaginated shape and are fully exposed to the extracellular space. The caveolar membrane, so stretched, is pulled into the line of fracture with the result that the large particles rather than the ostia appear on the cleaved surface. This flattening of the caveolae is reversible and suggests that they might serve as miniature stretch-receptors within the membrane of the smooth muscle cells. The caveolae are accessible to extracellular horseradish peroxidase but do not appear to pinocytose the protein.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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