The pathway followed by macromolecules across the wall of visceral capillaries has been studied by using a set of tracers of graded sizes, ranging in diameter from 100 A (ferritin) to 300 A (glycogen). Polysaccharide particles, i.e. dextran 75 (mol wt ∼75,000; diam ∼125 A), dextran 250 (mol wt 250,000; diam ∼225 A), shellfish glycogen (diam ∼200 A) and rabbit liver glycogen (diam ∼300 A), are well tolerated by Wistar-Furth rats and give no vascular reactions ascribable to histamine release. Good definition and high contrast of the tracer particles were obtained in a one-step fixation—in block staining of the tissues by a mixture containing aldehydes, OsO4 and lead citrate in phosphate or arsenate buffer, pH 7.4, followed by lead staining of sections. The glycogens and dextrans used move out of the plasma through the fenestrae and channels of the endothelium relatively fast (3–7 min) and create in the pericapillary spaces transient (2–5 min) concentration gradients centered on the fenestrated sectors of the capillary walls. The tracers also gained access to the plasmalemmal vesicles, first on the blood front and subsequently on the tissue front of the endothelium. The particles are temporarily retained by the basement membrane. No probe moved through the intercellular junctions. It is concluded that, in visceral capillaries, the fenestrae, channels, and plasmalemmal vesicles, viewed as related parts in a system of dynamic structures, are the structural equivalent of the large pore system.

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