Changes in the surface morphology of secreting mast cells have been followed by scanning electron microscopy. Mast cells isolated from the rat peritoneal cavity have folds of plasma membrane that form snake-like ridges on their surfaces. Fold length varies considerably from cell to cell, whereas fold width and depth appear to remain relatively constant. To assess the possible relationship between secretory activity and surface folding, a seimquantitative method was used for measuring fold length in control and secreting populations. A positive correlation is found between secretion of histamine and the extent of membrane folds on the mast cell surface. The source of the membrane required for fold formation is probably secretory granule membrane incorporated into the plasma membranene as a result of exocytosis. Furthermore, a distinct cell type devoid of surface folds, designated as a raspberry-type cell, is found to occur as an integral part of a normal population of mast cells. This cell type is resistant to stimulation by polymyxin.

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