Particle Assemblies in the Plasma Membrane of Tetrahymena: Relationship to Cell Surface Topography and Cellular Morphogenesis

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During a freeze‐fracture electron microscopical study of the plasma membrane of Tetrahymena, several different types of organized particle assemblies were observed. Three of these were found only on the protoplasmic face and were localized in the anterior‐ventral region of the cell. These consisted of plate‐like arrays composed of 4–25 triplet rows of small 3–4 nm particles; long, paired linear arrays localized at the tops of cortical ridges and composed of 7–8 nm particles; and elongated tetragonal arrays located in the grooves between ridges and composed of approximately 10 nm particles. The distribution of these arrays is consistent with roles in cellular morphogenesis, chemoreception, or cell‐cell pairing during conjugation. In addition, a unique particle track associated with the cytoproct (anal pore) was observed in the external face of the plasma membrane. Furthermore, the protoplasmic face of the plasma membrane is characterized by a high density of particles organized into localized microarrays, consisting of small paracrystals or strings, which exhibit a loose higher‐order patterning most evident toward the anterior end of the cell. Particle distributions on the protoplasmic face do not appear to be significantly altered by conditions that cause clumping of alveolar membrane particles. Taken together, these observations are consistent with the idea that the proteins of the plasma membrane are highly ordered and relatively immobile and that the structure of the plasma membrane is regionally differentiated. Copyright © 1981, Wiley Blackwell. All rights reserved

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The Journal of Protozoology