The luminal and discoid vacuole membranes of the superficial cell layer of the transitional epithelium of the mammalian urinary bladder have been studied by thin-sectioning and freeze-fracture-etch (FFE) electron microscope methods. For the FFE studies membranes were deposited on a cationized glass surface, covered by a thin copper disc, and fractured under liquid N2. Specimens were etched at -100 degrees C and replicated at -190 degrees C. A model of the lattice membrane derived from thin sections was used to predict the heights of the fracture faces above the glass surface. A hexagonal pattern of globular intramembrane particles spaced 160 A apart was seen in the external fracture (EF) face plaques as previously described and regarded as the dominant structure. However, very extensive areas of another pattern, seen before in only limited areas, have beeen found in the EF faces. The pattern consists of a smooth hexagonal lattice with the same space constant as the globular one but a different structure. By image analysis it consists of overlapping domains bordered by shared but incomplete metal rims. Each domain has a central spot of metal encircled by a shadow. The surface of the smooth lattice is partly complementary to the corresponding protoplasmic fracture (PF) face which shows a similar hexagonal lattice with the same space constant. The height of the smooth EF lattice above the glass substrate is the same as the plane of the center of the lipid bilayer predicted by the model. The mean heights of the particles of the globular EF lattice are greater than the total thickness of the membrane as predicted by the model and confirmed by measurements. The globular EF lattice is not complementary and it is concluded that the globular particles do not exist in the native membrane but arise artifactually during the preparatory procedures.

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