Gap junctions are known to present a variety of different morphologies in electron micrographs and x-ray diffraction patterns. This variation in structure is not only seen between gap junctions in different tissues and organisms, but also within a given tissue. In an attempt to understand the physiological meaning of some aspects of this variability, gap junction structure was studied following experimental manipulation of junctional channel conductance. Both physiological and morphological experiments were performed on gap junctions joining stage 20-23 chick embryo lens epithelial cells. Channel conductance was experimentally altered by using five different experimental manipulations, and assayed for conductance changes by observing the intercellular diffusion of Lucifer Yellow CH. All structural measurements were made on electron micrographs of freeze-fracture replicas after quick-freezing of specimens from the living state; for comparison, aldehyde-fixed specimens were measured as well. Analysis of the data generated as a result of this study revealed no common statistically significant changes in the intrajunctional packing of connexons in the membrane plane as a result of experimental alteration of junctional channel conductance, although some of the experimental manipulations used to alter junctional conductance did produce significant structural changes. Aldehyde fixation caused a dramatic condensation of connexon packing, a result not observed with any of the five experimental uncoupling conditions over the 40-min time course of the experiments.

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