The technique of monolayer freeze-fracture autoradiography (MONOFARG) has been developed and the principles, quantitation, and application of the method are described. Cell monolayers attached to polylysine-treated glass were freeze-fractured, shadowed, and coated with dry, Parlodion-supported Ilford L4 photographic emulsion at room temperature. Quantitative aspects of MONOFARG were examined using radioiodinated test systems. Background was routinely less than 2.5 X 10(-4) grains/microns 2/day, the highest overall efficiency was between 25% and 45%, and grain density and efficiency were dependent on radiation dose for iodine-125 and D-19 development. Corrected grain densities were linearly proportional to iodine-125 concentration. The method was applied to an examination of the transmembrane distribution of radioiodinated and fluoresceinated concanavalin A (125I-FITC-Con-A). Human erythrocytes were labeled, column-purified, freeze-dried or freeze-fractured, autoradiographed, and examined by electron microscopy. The number of silver grains per square micrometer of unsplit single membrane was essentially identical to that of split extracellular membrane "halves." These data demonstrate that 125I-FITC-Con-A partitions exclusively with the extracellular "half" of the membrane upon freeze-fracturing and can be used as a quantitative marker for the fraction of extracellular split membrane "halves." This method should be able to provide new information about certain transmembrane properties of biological membrane molecules and probes, as well as about the process of freeze-fracture per se.

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