Galactosyltransferase immunoreactive sites were localized in human duodenal enterocytes by the protein A-gold technique on thin sections from low temperature Lowicryl K4M embedded biopsy specimens. Antigenic sites detected with affinity-purified, monospecific antibodies were found at the plasma membrane of absorptive enterocytes with the most intense labeling appearing along the brush border membrane. The lateral plasma membrane exhibited a lower degree of labeling at the level of the junctional complexes but the membrane interdigitations were intensely labeled. The labeling intensity decreased progressively towards the basal part of the enterocytes and reached the lowest degree along the basal plasma membrane. Quantitative evaluation of the distribution of gold-particle label proved its preferential orientation to the outer surface of the plasma membrane. In addition to this membrane-associated labeling, the glycocalyx extending from the microvillus tips was heavily labeled. Occasionally, cells without plasma membrane labeling were found adjacent to positive cells. The demonstration of ecto-galactosyltransferase on membranes other than Golgi membranes precludes its general use as a marker for Golgi membrane fractions. The possible function of galactosyltransferase on a luminal plasma membrane is unclear at present, but a role in adhesion appears possible on the basolateral plasma membrane.

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