Substructure of intercellular junctions in freeze-fractured alveolar-capillary membranes of mouse lung.
The purpose of this study was to examine by freeze-fracture the ultrastructure of intercellular junctions between mouse pulmonary endothelial and epithelial cells, and to relate this fine structure to that deduced from previous physiological and ultrastructural studies using tracer techniques. Junctions between capillary endothelial cells consist of one to three interconnected rows of particles which show occasional discontinuities. Small gap junctions are associated with these rows of particles in the arteriolar end of the capillary bed. At the venular end, the junctions consist of low profile ridges on the protoplasmic fracture (PF) face or complimentary grooves on the exoplasmic fracture (EF) face some of which have a sparse number of associated particles. The vascular junctions are similar to those of vessels in rat omentum and mesentery, and resemble "leaky" junctions described in renal proximal convoluted tubular cells. Tight junctions (zonulae occludentes) between type I pneumocytes or between types I and II pneumocytes consist of a band of interconnecting ridges on the PF face and complimentary interconnecting grooves on the EF face. These continuous epithelial junctions have a structure that is typical of tight occluding junctions. Occasionally zonulae occludentes between type I and type II pneumocytes are discontinuous; this may be the result of cell translocation as pneumocytes are shed into the alveolus. Intravascular perfusion fixation at high pressure (140 cm H2O) had no discernible effect on the structure of endothelial or epithelial junctions. The appearance in our study of freeze-fractured pulmonary endothelial and epithelial junctions reveals clearly the physical basis for the results of ultrastructural tracer and physiological studies which have suggested that it is the alveolar epithelium rather than the endothelium that is the chief permeability barrier to small, water-soluble molecules.
- Copyright © 1976 by American Heart Association