The structure of gap junctions in the rabbit ciliary epithelium, corneal endothelium, and mouse stomach and liver was studied with the freeze-fracturing technique after rapid freezing to near 4 degrees K from the living state. In the ciliary epithelium, the connexons were randomly distributed, separated by smooth membrane matrix. In the corneal endothelium, both random and crystalline arrangements of the connexons were observed. In the stomach and liver, the connexons were packed but not crystalline. Experimental anoxia or lowered pH caused crystallization of the connexons within 20-30 min. In the ciliary epithelium, the effects of prolonged anoxia or low pH could not be reversed . In addition, invaginated or annular gap junctions increased in number, but their connexons were usually distributed at random. Rapid freezing thus demonstrates that gap junctions of different tissues are highly pleiomorphic in the living state, and this may explain their variations in structure after chemical fixation. The slow time-course and irreversibility of the morphological changes induced by prolonged anoxia or low pH suggest that connexon crystallization may be a long-term consequence rather than the morphological correlate of the switch to high resistance.

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