The receptor-rich postsynaptic membrane of the elasmobranch electric organ was fixed by quick-freezing and then viewed by freeze-fracture, deep-etching and rotary-replication. Traditional freeze-fracture revealed a distinct, geometrical pattern of shallow 8.5-nm bumps on the E fracture-face, similar to the lattice which has been seen before in chemically fixed material, but seen less clearly than after quick-freezing. Fracture plus deep-etching brought into view on the true outside of this membrane a similar geometrical pattern of 8.5-nm projections rising out of the membrane surface. The individual projections looked like structures that have been seen in negatively stained or deep-etched membrane fragments and have been identified as individual acetylcholine receptor molecules. The surface protrusions were twice as abundant as the large intramembrane particles that characterize the fracture faces of this membrane, which have also been considered to be receptor molecules. Particle counts have always been too low to match the estimates of postsynaptic receptor density derived from physiological and biochemical studies; counts of surface projections, however, more closely matched these estimates. Rotary-replication of quick-frozen, etched postsynaptic membranes enhanced the visibility of these surface protuberances and illustrated that they often occur in dimers, tetramers, and ordered rows. The variations in these surface patterns suggested that in vivo, receptors in the postsynaptic membrane may tend to pack into "liquid crystals" which constantly appear, flow, and disappear in the fluid environment of the membrane. Additionally, deep-etching revealed a distinct web of cytoplasmic filaments beneath the postsynaptic membrane, and revealed the basal lamina above it; and delineated possible points of contact between these structures and the membrane proper.

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