The fine structure of the rabbit gallbladder has been studied in specimens whose functional state was undetermined, which were fixed either in situ or directly after removal from the animal; in specimens whose rate of fluid absorption was determined, either in vivo or in vitro, immediately prior to fixation; and in specimens from bladders whose absorptive function was experimentally altered in vitro. Considerable variation was found in the width of the epithelial intercellular spaces in the bladders whose functional state was undefined. In bladders known to be transporting fluid, either in vivo or in vitro, the intercellular spaces were always distended, as were the subepithelial capillaries. This distension was greatest in bladders which had been functioning in vitro. When either Na+ or Cl- was omitted from the bathing media, there was no fluid transport across the wall of the gallbladder studied in vitro. The epithelial intercellular spaces of biopsies taken from several bladders under these conditions were of approximately 200 A width except for minor distension at the crests of mucosal folds. The addition of the missing ion rapidly led to the reestablishment of fluid transport and the distension of the intercellular spaces throughout most of the epithelium of these bladders. Studies of sodium localization (by fixation with a pyroantimonate-OsO4 mixture) showed high concentrations of this ion in the distended intercellular spaces. Histochemical studies of ATPase activity showed that this enzyme was localized along the lateral plasma membrane of the epithelial cells. The analogy is drawn between the structure of the gallbladder mucosa and a serial membrane model proposed by Curran to account for coupled solute-solvent transport across epithelia. It is concluded that the intercellular compartment fulfills the conditions for the middle compartment of the Curran model and that active transport of solute across the lateral plasma membrane into the intercellular space may be responsible for fluid absorption by the gall bladder.

This content is only available as a PDF.