The nuclear envelope and associated structures from Xenopus laevis oocytes (stage VI) have been examined with the high resolution scanning electron microscope (SEM). The features of the inner and outer surfaces of the nuclear surface complex were revealed by manual isolation , whereas the membranes facing the perinuclear space (the space between the inner and outer nuclear membranes) were observed by fracturing the nuclear envelope in this plane and splaying the corresponding regions apart. Pore complexes were observed on all four membrane surfaces of this double-membraned structure. The densely packed pore complexes (55/micron2) are often clustered into triplets with shared walls (outer diameter = 90 nm; inner diameter = 25 nm; wall thickness = aproximately 30 nm), and project aproximately 20 nm above each membrane except where they are flush with the innermost surface. The pore complex appears to be an aggregate of four 30-nm subunits. The nuclear cortex, a fibrous layer (300 nm thickness) associated with the inner surface of the nuclear envelope, has been revealed by rapid fixation. This cortical layer is interrupted by funnel-shaped intranuclear channels (120-640 nm diam) which narrow towards the pore complexes. Chains of particles, arranged in spirals, are inserted into these intranuclear channels. The fibers associated with the innermost face of the nuclear envelope can be extraced with 0.6 MKI to reveal the pore complexes. A model of the nuclear surface complex, compiled from the visualization of all the membrane faces and the nuclear cortex, demonstrates relations between the intranuclear channels (3.2/micron2) and the numerous pore complexes, and the possibility of their role in nucleocytoplasmic interactions.

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