In the acinar cells of the rat parotid gland the two membranes participating in exocytosis, i.e., the luminal plasmalemma and the secretory granule membrane, are clearly distinguishable in freeze-fracture because of their different densities in particles. In order to obtain point-specific information about the fusion-fission of these two membranes that occurs during the secretory cycle, glands were studied at various times (5 min to 6 h) after stimulation with isoproterenol. We observed that, in the course of the release of secretion products and shortly afterwards, the enlarged luminal plasmalemma exhibits a mosaic organization consisting of an alternation of membrane patches of high (original plasmalemma) and low (fused granule membrane) particle density. The transition between these two patterns is usually sharp. Later, concomitant with the reformation of acinar canaliculi, the low particle density membrane is found at the cell surface but only bounding vacuolar infoldings, and then it finally disappears. These results suggest that (a) fusion of these membranes does not result in a random intermixing of the molecular components of the participating membranes, which retain their structural identity; and (b) the enlarged luminal plasmalemma reverts to its original size by a progressive, specific removal of the regions of low particle density from the cell surface.

This content is only available as a PDF.