Replicas of freeze-fractured toad urinary bladder and gallbladder were analysed in an attempt to determine the fracturing properties and structure of the zonula occludens (tight junction). Chalcroft and Bullivant have proposed that the junction has a double set of fibrils with one set associated with each of the adjacent cell membranes. However, the fracturing pattern that is observed might also result from only a single set of fibrils which is shared by the adjacent membranes if fracturing occurred around either side of the fibrils. These two models predict quite different structures at regions of the junction where tranl sitions are made between face A and face B. The relative heights of face A and face B and the shape of the transition from face A to face B do not agree with that expected according to the two fibril model but agree exactly with that expected if only a single set of fibrils existed. Further evidence for the single fibril model is derived from fractures of the mucosa membrane which cross the junction to the membrane of the adjacent cell without deflection. Such fractures reveal a single ridge which appears to be identical to the juxtaluminal fibril of the junction. In addition, small ridges are occasionally found in place of the grooves on face B which, although not consistent with the double fibril model, is expected if the single fibril model were correct. Although alternative explanations might account for these observations, we believe that the simplest and most consistent explanation is that the zonula occludens fractures as would be expected of a single set of fibrils shared by adjacent cells.

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