Ionic lanthanum has been used to study transepithelial ion permeation in in vitro rabbit gallbladder and intestine (ileum) by adding 1 mM La3+ to only the mucosal bathing solution. Transepithelial fluid transport electrical potential differences (p.d.), and resistances were measured. During La3+ treatment the gallbladder's rate of active solute-coupled fluid transport remained constant, the resistance increased, and the 2:1 NaCl diffusion p.d. decreased. Mucosa-to-serosa fluxes of 140La3+ were measured and indicate a finite permeability of the gallbladder to La3+. La3+ also increased the transepithelial resistance and p d. of ileum. Electron microscopic examination of La3+-treated gallbladder showed: (a) good preservation of the fine structure, (b) electron-opaque lanthanum precipitates in almost every lateral intercellular space, most frequently near the apical end of the lateral spaces close to or within the junctional complex, (c) lanthanum among the subjacent muscle and connective tissue layers, and (d) lanthanum filling almost the entire length of so-called "tight" junctions. No observations were made which unequivocally showed the penetration of lanthanum into the gallbladder cells. Electron micrographs of similar La3+-treated ilea showed lanthanum deposits penetrating the junctional complexes. These results coupled with other physiological studies indicate that the low resistance pathway for transepithelial ion permeation in gallbladder and ileum is through the tight junctions A division of salt-transporting epithelia into two main groups, those with "leaky" junctional complexes and those with tight junctional complexes, has been proposed.

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