Exposing the mucosal epithelium of the toad urinary bladder to 240 mM urea in Ringer's solution is known to cause a dramatic increase in the permeability of the zonulae occludentes and the appearance of distended, bubble-like compartments within these junctions. Examination of such osmotically disrupted junctions with the freeze-fracture technique reveals that these bubbles result from a distention of the compartments existing within the meshwork of interconnecting fibrils characteristic of the zonulae occludentes in this epithelium. Frequent discontinuities in the meshwork of fibrils are also found after osmotic disruption of the junction. These observations indicate the essential role of these fibrils in maintaining the characteristic properties of the zonula occludens as a site of cell-to-cell attachment and as a permeability seal.

This content is only available as a PDF.