Flame photometry reveals that glutaraldehyde and buffer solutions in routine use for electron microscopy contain varying amounts of calcium. The presence of electron-opaque deposits adjacent to membranes in a variety of tissues can be correlated with the presence of calcium in the fixative. In insect intestine (midgut), deposits occur adjacent to apical and lateral plasma membranes. The deposits are particularly evident in tissues fixed in glutaraldehyde without postosmication. They are also observed in osmicated tissue if calcium is added to wash and osmium solutions. Deposits are absent when calcium-free fixatives are used, but are present when traces of CaCl2 (as low as 5 x 10-5 M) are added. The deposits occur at regular intervals along junctional membranes, providing images strikingly similar to those obtained by other workers who have used pyroantimonate in an effort to localize sodium. Other divalent cations (Mg++, Sr++, Ba++, Mn++, Fe++) appear to substitute for calcium, while sodium, potassium, lanthanum, and mercury do not. After postfixing with osmium with calcium added, the deposits can be resolved as patches along the inner leaflet of apical and lateral plasma membranes. The dense regions may thus localize membrane constituents that bind calcium. The results are discussed in relation to the role of calcium in control of cell-to-cell communication, intestinal calcium uptake, and the pyroantimonate technique for ion localization.

This content is only available as a PDF.