In this study we attempted to identify a morphologic counterpart of the small pore of muscle capillaries. The existence of such a pore has been postulated by physiologists to explain the permeability of muscle capillaries to small macromolecules. We injected mice intravenously with microperoxidase (MP) and fixed specimens of diaphragm at intervals of 0-250 s after the injection to localize the tracer by electron microscopy. The small size of MP (1,900 mol wt and 20 A molecular diameter [MD]) ensures its ready passage through the small pore since the latter is thought to be either a cylindrical channel 90 A in diameter or a slit 55 A wide. MP appears in the pericapillary interstitium within 30 s of initiation of its intravenous injection. The patterns of localization of MP observed within clefts between adjacent capillary endothelial cells indicate that some endothelial junctions are permeable to this tracer. Although small vesicles transfer MP across the endothelium, we do not believe that the vesicles transfer substantial amounts of MP into the pericapillary interstitium. We did not obtain evidence that MP crosses the endothelium of capillaries through channels formed either by a single vesicle or by a series of linked vesicles opening simultaneously at both surfaces of the endothelial cell. From our observations we conclude that some endothelial junctions of capillaries are permeable to MP, and that these permeable junctions are a plausible morphologic counterpart of the small pore.

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