The tight junctions of the choroid plexus epithelium of rats were studied by freeze-fracture. In glutaraldehyde-fixed material, the junctions exhibited rows of aligned particles and short bars on P-faces, the E-faces showing grooves bearing relatively many particles. A particulate nature of the junctional strands could be established by using unfixed material. The mean values of junctional strands from the lateral, third, and fourth ventricles of Lewis rats were 7.5 +/- 2.6, 7.4 +/- 2.2, and 7.5 +/- 2.4; and of Sprague-Dawley rats 7.7 +/- 3.4, 7.4 +/- 2.3, and 7.3 +/- 1.6. Examination of complementary replicas (of fixed tissue) showed that discomtinuities are present in the junctional strands: 42.2 +/- 4.6% of the length of measured P-face ridges were discontinuities, and the total amount of complementary particles in E-face grooves constituted 17.8 +/- 4.4% of the total length of the grooves, thus approximately 25% of the junctional strands can be considered to be discontinuous. The average width of the discontinuities, when corrected for complementary particles in E-face grooves, was 7.7 +/- 4.5 nm. In control experiments with a "tighter" tight junction (small intestine), complementary replicas revealed that the junctional fibrils are rather continuous and that the very few particles in E-face grooves mostly filled out discontinuities in the P-face ridges. Approximately 5% of the strands were found to be discontinuous. These data support the notion that the presence of pores in the junctional strands of the choroid plexus epithelium may explain the high transepithelial conductance in a "leaky" epithelium having a high number of junctional strands. However, loss of junctional material during fracturing is also considered as an alternative explanation of the present results.

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