When tissues are processed for electron microscopy by conventional methods, such as glutaraldehyde fixation followed by rapid dehydration in acetone, basement membranes show two main layers: the electron-lucent “lamina lucida” (or rara) and the electrondense “lamina densa”. In an attempt to determine whether this subdivision is real or artefactual, two approaches have been used. Firstly, rat and mouse seminiferous tubules, mouse epididymis and associated tissues, and anterior parts of mouse eyes were subjected to cryofixation by instant freezing followed by freeze substitution in a-80° C solution of osmium tetroxide in dry acetone, which was gradually warmed to room temperature over a 3-day period. The results indicate that, in areas devoid of ice crystals, basement membranes consist of a lamina densa in direct contact with the plasmalemma of the associated cells without an intervening lamina lucida. Secondly, a series of tissues from mice perfused with 3% glutaraldehyde were cryoprotected in 30% glycerol, frozen in Freon 22 and subjected to a 3-day freeze substitution in osmium tetroxide-acetone as above. Under these conditions, no lamina lucida accompanies the lamina densa in the basement membranes of the majority of tissues, including kidney, thyroid gland, smooth and skeletal muscle, ciliary body, seminiferous tubules, epididymis and capillary endothelium. Thus, even though these tissues have been fixed in glutaraldehyde, no lamina lucida appears when they are slowly dehydrated by freeze substitution. It is concluded that the occurrence of this lamina in conventionally processed tissues is not due to fixation but to the rapid dehydration. However, in this series of experiments, the basement membranes of trachea and plantar epidermis include a lamina lucida along their entire length, while those of esophagus and vas deferens may or may not include a lamina lucida. To find out if the lamina lucida appearing under these conditions is a real structure or an artefact, the trachea and epidermis were fixed in paraformaldehyde and slowly dehydrated by freeze substitution. Under these conditions, no lamina lucida was found. Since this result is the same as observed in other tissues by the previous approaches, it is proposed that the lamina lucida is an artefact in these as in the other investigated basement membranes. Thus, basement membranes are simply composed of a lamina densa that closely follows the plasmalemma of the associated cells. At high magnification, the lamina densa consists of a tridimensional network of cords, while the plasmalemma is covered by a glycocalyx; close contact is observed between cords and glycocalyx and is interpreted by assuming that the laminin present in the cords binds to laminin receptors in the glycocalyx.
Cell and Tissue Research – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 1, 1993
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