The behaviour of primary cultures of dissociated embryonic chick pigmented retina epithelial (PRE) cells has been investigated. Isolated PRE cells have a mean speed of locomotion of 7–16 mum/h. Collisions between the cells normally result in the development of stable contacts between the cells involved. This leads to a gradual reduction in the number of isolated cells and an increase in the number of cells incorporated into islands. Ultrastructural observations of islands of cells after 24 h in culture show that junctional complexes are present between the cells. These complexes consist of 2 components: (a) an apically situated region of focal tight junctions and/or gap junctions, and (b) a more ventrally located zonula adhaerens with associated cytoplasmic filaments forming a band running completely around the periphery of each cell. The intermembrane gap in the region of the zonula is 6-0-12-0 nm. The junctional complexes become more differentiated with time and after 48 h in culture consist of an extensive region of tight junctions and/or gap junctions and a more specialized zonula adhaerens. It is suggested that the development of junctional complexes may be responsible for the stable contacts that the cells display in culture.

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