Uropods can form spontaneously in a variable fraction of mouse thymocytes incubated for 30--60 min in vitro at temperatures between about 8 degrees and 37 degrees C. The majority of the cells with a typical uropod are medium and large thymocytes. The "normal" distribution of concanavalin-A receptors and antigens recognized by a rabbit anti-mouse thymocyte serum was studied on these cells by electron microscopy using ferritin-conjugated lectin or antibodies. The cells were fixed with glutaraldehyde or formaldehyde before labeling. The distribution was essentially uniform on spherical cells. On the contrary, on cells which had formed a uropod the labeled receptors and antigens appeared to be preferentially concentrated around the nucleus, and depleted over the uropod, and especially over the constriction at the base of the uropod. Uropod formation and inhomogeneous distribution were inhibited or reversed by cytochalasin B, but not by vinblastine or colchicine. When the same ligands were applied to unfixed cells, the labeled and cross-linked components capped normally towards the cytoplasmic pole of the cell. These observations are described in relation to the ability of receptors and antigens to interact with an intracellular mechanical structure, and to the mechanism of capping.

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