The membrane surfaces within the rod outer segment of the toad, Bufo marinus, were exposed by rapid-freezing followed by freeze-fracture and deep-etching. Platinum-carbon replicas of disk membranes prepared in this way demonstrate a distinct sidedness. The membrane surface that faces the lumen of the disk shows a fine granularity; particles of approximately 6 nm are packed at a density of approximately 30,000/micron 2. These dimensions suggest that the particles represent protrusions of the integral membrane protein, rhodopsin, into the intradisk space. In addition, when rhodopsin packing is intentionally perturbed by exhaustive digestion with phospholipase C, a concomitant change is observed in the appearance of the luminal surface granularity. The cytoplasmic surface of the disk rarely displays this rough texture; instead it exhibits a collection of much larger particles (8-12 nm) present at approximately 10% of the concentration of rhodopsin. This is about the size and concentration expected for certain light-regulated enzymes, cGMP phosphodiesterase and GTP-binding protein, which are currently thought to localize on or near the cytoplasmic surface of the disk. The molecular identity of the 8-12-nm particles will be identified in the following companion paper. A further differentiation of the cytoplasmic surface can be seen around the very edge, or rim, of each disk. This rim has relatively few 8-12-nm particles and instead displays short filamentlike structures connecting it to other membranes. These filaments extend between adjacent disks, across disk incisures, and from disk rims to the nearby plasma membrane.

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