We have used size-fractionated, fluorescent dextrans to probe the structure of the cytoplasmic ground substance of living Swiss 3T3 cells by fluorescence recovery after photobleaching and video image processing. The data indicate that the cytoplasm of living cells has a fluid phase viscosity four times greater than water and contains structural barriers that restrict free diffusion of dissolved macromolecules in a size-dependent manner. Assuming these structural barriers comprise a filamentous meshwork, the combined fluorescence recovery after photobleaching and imaging data suggest that the average pore size of the meshwork is in the range of 300 to 400 A, but may be as small as 200 A in some cytoplasmic domains.

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