Smooth septate junctions from the midgut of the cricket, Acheta, and the horseshoe crab, Limulus, as well as Hydra-type septate junctions from the epidermis of Hydra have been studied by freeze-fracture after direct freezing using the liquid helium-cooled copper block/slam freezing method. The exoplasmic fracture face at both types of septate junction exhibits rows of closely packed but irregularly shaped intramembrane particles. Complementary to these particle rows, on the protoplasmic fracture face, are sharply defined grooves with a periodic variation in depth and width that was conspicuous in Hydra but less well defined in arthropods. The closely packed, irregular particles on the exoplasmic faces could represent plastically deformed portions of transmembrane proteins pulled through the bilayer during freeze-fracture. On the basis of this interpretation, the grooves on the protoplasmic faces represent a confluence of the bilayer disruptions occurring during fracturing. The structures observed here are different from those reported in replicas of glutaraldehyde-fixed and glycerol-cryoprotected tissue, in which the intramembrane junctional components partition with the protoplasmic face and often assume the appearance of continuous cylinders. This comparison illustrates some of the artifacts associated with freeze-fracturing and shadowing. On the basis of a comparison of freeze-fracture replicas and sections of lanthanum-infiltrated tissues, the relationship between intramembrane junctional components and intercellular septal elements is analysed.
- © 1986 by Company of Biologists