A number of ultrastructural and cytochemical techniques were used to study intact epithelial cells lining the frog urinary bladder: high resolution autoradiography after administration of [3H]glucosamine or [3H]fucose; 125I iodination of external protein; concanavalin A-peroxidase, periodic acid-chromic acid silver methenamine; and colloidal thorium. Results indicate that the material (probably glycoprotein) coating the apical surface differs from that which lines the lateral and basal surfaces. After dissociation and isolation of the epithelial cells, the material previously confined to the apical surface invaded progressively the opened "tight junctions" (about 5 min), then the lateral membranes (about 40 min), and finally the basal membrane (about 80 min): at that time, the whole cell surface was entirely enveloped by the apical material. Since, on the one hand, the reacting material was confined to the apical surface when the tight junctions were closed (in intact epithelial cells) and since, on the other hand, the apical material was sliding down the laterobasal membranes when the tight junctions were opened (in dissociated cells), it may be concluded that tight junctions contribute to maintain the cell surface specialization in epithelia.

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