The ultrastructure of the lumenal plasma membrane of the cow urianry bladder has been studied in thin sections of glutaraldehyde- and glutaraldehyde-H2O2-fixed specimens, by negative staining and freeze fracture. A regular hexagonal array of particles confined to polygonal plaques 0-1-0-4-mum in diameter and separated by 0-02-mum interplaque areas is revealed by all 3 techniques. Cross-sections through particulate areas fixed with glutarayldehyde-H2O2 display a tetralaminar structure consisting of the usual approximately 8-nm-thick trilamellar unit membrane structure, on the external dense leaflet of which is located an additional approximately 4-nm-thick stratum which is occasionally resolved into a row of regulrly spaced approximately 4-nm-diameter particles. Non-particulate areas feature only the approximately 8-nm-thick trilamellar structure. Tangential sections reveal an hexagonal array of particles with a unit cell of approximately 16 nm. Four membrane faces can be revealed by freeze fracture and etching of membranes of the cow urinary bladder; 2 complementary split inner membrane faces (A and B) revealed by the cleaving process and the lumenal and cytoplasmic membrane surfaces exposed by etching. Face B, which belongs to the external membrane leaflet and faces the cytoplasm, displays plaques of particles arranged in a hexagonal lattice with a unit cell of approximately 16 nm. Face A, which belongs to the cytoplasmic membrane leaflet and faces the lumen, displays a complementary array of hexagonally packed pits. The hexagonally arranged particles also protrude into the lumenal membrane surface where they can occasionally be resolved into 6 approximately 5-nm-diameter subunits; the cytoplasmic surface appears smooth. Six approximately 5-nm-diameter subunits are also revealed in negatively stained preparations. The data are consistent with a model for the membrane in which the particles forming the hexagonal structure protrude above the lumenal membrane surface and also bridge most of the thickness of the membrane.

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