To visualize the localization of cell surface constituents in relation to the plasma membrane-associated filament network, we developed a method based on a combination of immunogold labeling and dry-cleaving. For labeling we used trinitrophenyl-derivatized ligand, anti-TNP antibodies, and protein A-coated colloidal gold. Dry-cleaving (Mesland, D. A. M., H. Spiele, and E. Roos, 1981, Exp. Cell Res., 132: 169-184) involves cleavage of lightly fixed critical point-dried cells by means of adhesive tape. Since cells cleave close to the cell surface, the remaining layer is thin enough to be examined in transmission electron microscopy. Using this method, we studied concanavalin A-binding constituents on the medium-facing surface of H35 hepatoma cells. The distribution of the gold particles, which was partly dispersed and partly patchy, coincided strikingly with membrane-associated filaments, and label was virtually absent from areas overlying openings in the filament network. In stereo pairs we observed the label to be localized to areas of somewhat enhanced electron density at the plane of the membrane. These areas were interconnected in a pattern congruent with the filament network. Preliminary observations on wheat germ agglutinin receptors on the hepatoma cells as well as concanavalin A receptors on isolated hepatocytes yielded comparable results. It thus appears that surface glycoproteins, although seemingly randomly distributed as observed in thin sections, may actually be localized to particular membrane domains associated with underlying filaments.

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