The wall of the blood capillaries of skeletal muscles (diaphragm, tongue, hind legs) and myocardium of the rat, guinea pig, and hamster consists of three consecutive layers or tunics: the endothelium (inner layer), the basement membrane with its associated pericytes (middle layer), and the adventitia (outer layer). The flattened cells of the endothelium have a characteristic, large population of cytoplasmic vesicles which, within the attenuated periphery of the cells, may attain a maximum frequency of 120/µ2 of cell front and occupy ∼18% of the cytoplasmic volume; these values decrease as the cells thicken toward the perikaryon. The vesicles are 650–750 A in over-all diameter and are bounded by typical unit membranes. They occur as single units or are fused to form short chains of two to three vesicles. Each configuration may lie entirely within the cytoplasm or open onto the cell surface. In the latter case, the unit membrane of the vesicle is continuous, layer by layer, with the plasmalemma. Chains of vesicles opening simultaneously on both the blood and tissue fronts of the endothelial tunic have not been observed either in sections or in a tridimensional reconstruction of a sector of endothelial cell cytoplasm. Adjacent endothelial cells are closely apposed to one another and appear to be joined over a large part of their margins, possibly over their entire perimeter, by narrow belts of membrane fusion (zonulae occludentes). Except for tongue capillaries, patent intercellular gaps are rare or absent. The middle layer is formed by a continuous basement membrane (∼500 A thick) and by pericytes which lie in between leaflets of this membrane. The tips of the pericyte pseudopodia penetrate through the inner leaflet of the basement membrane and join the endothelium in maculae occludentes. The adventitia is a discontinuous layer comprising cellular (macrophages, fibroblasts, mast cells) and extracellular (fibrils, amorphous matrix) elements. The same general type of construction appears to be used along the entire length of the capillary.

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