In an effort to more clearly elucidate the role of cellular structures as calcium sinks and sources in smooth muscle cells, the intracellular distribution of radioactive calcium was evaluated by a new method based on freeze-drying. The guinea pig vas deferens was exposed to a physiological salt solution that contained 45Ca. The muscle was then freeze-dried and prepared for electron microscope autoradiography. The grain density over the plasma membrane, mitochondria, and sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) was significantly greater than that of the matrix. These results suggest that the plasma membrane, mitochondria and SR have the capacity to accumulate calcium. Which of these structures serve as a source of calcium for contraction remains to be determined. A stereological comparison between freeze-dried and conventionally prepared smooth muscles revealed several differences. The cross-sectional area of freeze-dried cells was about twice that of conventionally prepared cells. Moreover, mitochondria and sub-surface vesicles occupied a significantly smaller percentage of the cell in the freeze-dried tissue than they did in the conventionally prepared tissue.

This content is only available as a PDF.