Nuclear pore complexes (NPCs) prepared from Xenopus laevis oocyte nuclear envelopes were studied in "intact" form (i.e., unexposed to detergent) and after detergent treatment by a combination of conventional transmission electron microscopy (CTEM) and quantitative scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM). In correlation-averaged CTEM pictures of negatively stained intact NPCs and of distinct NPC components (i.e., "rings," "spoke" complexes, and "plug-spoke" complexes), several fine structural features arranged with octagonal symmetry about a central axis could reproducibly be identified. STEM micrographs of unstained/freeze-dried intact NPCs as well as of their components yielded comparable but less distinct features. Mass determination by STEM revealed the following molecular masses: intact NPC with plug, 124 +/- 11 MD; intact NPC without plug, 112 +/- 11 MD; heavy ring, 32 +/- 5 MD; light ring, 21 +/- 4 MD; plug-spoke complex, 66 +/- 8 MD; and spoke complex, 52 +/- 3 MD. Based on these combined CTEM and STEM data, a three-dimensional model of the NPC exhibiting eightfold centrosymmetry about an axis perpendicular to the plane of the nuclear envelope but asymmetric along this axis is proposed. This structural polarity of the NPC across the nuclear envelope is in accord with its well-documented functional polarity facilitating mediated nucleocytoplasmic exchange of molecules and particles.

This content is only available as a PDF.