Extensive cell contacts which resemble septate junctions occur between cells in the three major zones of the rat adrenal cortex. Characteristically, they extend between small intercellular canaliculi and the periendothelial space, frequently interrupted by gap junctions and rarely by desmosomes. Zonulae occludentes have not been identified in the adrenal cortex. Along this distinctive cell contact, the cell membranes of apposing cells are separated by 210–300 a bisected by irregularly spaced 100–150-A extracellular particles which are often circular in profile. In lanthanum preparations, these particles appear to form a continuous chain throughout the intercellular space and are visualized as an alveolate structure in sections parallel to the plane of the cell membrane. The cell membrane in the area of septate-like contact does not differ from nonjunctional areas of the cell membrane in freeze-fracture replicas. The cell contact retains its integrity after cell dispersion and after the separation of cell membranes from disrupted cells. The intercellular particles also persist after brief extraction in lipid solvents. Besides adherence, possible functions of this adrenal contact include maintenance of the width of the extracellular space, the provision of channels between intercellular canaliculi and the bloodstream, and utilization as cation depots. Similar structures are also present between adrenal cortical cells of several other species and between interstitial cells of the testis. This type of cell contact may, in fact, be a typical feature of steroid-hormone-secreting tissues in vertebrates.

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