This report presents the appearance of rapidly frozen, freeze-dried cytoskeletons that have been rotary replicated with platinum and viewed in the transmission electron microscope. The resolution of this method is sufficient to visualize individual filaments in the cytoskeleton and to discriminate among actin, microtubules, and intermediate filaments solely by their surface substructure. This identification has been confirmed by specific decoration with antibodies and selective extraction of individual filament types, and correlated with light microscope immunocytochemistry and gel electrophoresis patterns. The freeze-drying preserves a remarkable degree of three-dimensionality in the organization of these cytoskeletons. They look strikingly similar to the meshwork of strands or "microtrabeculae" seen in the cytoplasm of whole cells by high voltage electron microscopy, in that the filaments form a lattice of the same configutation and with the same proportions of open area as the microtrabeculae seen in whole cells. The major differences between these two views of the structural elements of the cytoplasmic matrix can be attributed to the effects of aldehyde fixation and dehydration. Freeze-dried cytoskeletons thus provide an opportunity to study--at high resolution and in the absence of problems caused by chemical fixation--the detailed organization of filaments in different regions of the cytoplasm and at different stages of cell development. In this report the pattern of actin and intermediate filament organization in various regions of fully spread mouse fibroblasts is described.

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