Large scale aggregation of fluorescein-labeled immunoglobulin E (IgE) receptor complexes on the surface of RBL cells results in the co-aggregation of a large fraction of the lipophilic fluorescent probe 3,3'-dihexadecylindocarbocyanine (diI) that labels the plasma membranes much more uniformly in the absence of receptor aggregation. Most of the diI molecules that are localized in patches of aggregated receptors have lost their lateral mobility as determined by fluorescence photobleaching recovery. The diI outside of patches is mobile, and its mobility is similar to that in control cells without receptor aggregates. It is unlikely that the co-aggregation of diI with IgE receptors is due to specific interactions between these components, as two other lipophilic probes of different structures are also observed to redistribute with aggregated IgE receptors, and aggregation of two other cell surface antigens also results in the coredistribution of diI at the RBL cell surface. Quantitative analysis of CCD images of labeled cells reveals some differences in the spatial distributions of co-aggregated diI and IgE receptors. The results indicate that cross-linking of specific cell surface antigens causes a substantial change in the organization of the plasma membrane by redistributing pre-existing membrane domains or causing their formation.

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