We studied the junctional region between rod inner segments (RIS) and outer segments (ROS) in frog retinas by high resolution scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Retinas of dark adapted or light exposed Rana pipiens were critical-point-dried and RIS and ROS were split and coated with ultrathin metal films of niobium and chromium--or decorated with gold--and imaged in a new SE-I imaging mode. The connecting cilium (CC) usually broke at the base of the RIS and remained attached to the ROS. The outer part of the CC plasmalemma expanded to form liplike protrusions beyond which disks evaginated with successively larger diameter until they reached the full width of the ROS. The CC rose out from an invagination of the RIS apical plasma membrane (PM). On the lateral walls of this invagination, a highly ordered complex of nine symmetrically arrayed ridges and grooves rose steeply and extended laterally approximately 0.4-1 micron on the adjacent RIS PM. On the apical plasmalemma, the ridges and grooves formed groups of three to four parallel rows that surrounded the invagination. The grooves were bridged by filaments anchored at the top edges of the ridges. This highly ordered structure we term the periciliary ridge complex (PRC). Its ninefold symmetry apparently reflects the 9 + 0 microtubule organization of the CC axoneme. The three-dimensional structure revealed by SEM was confirmed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) of sections of Epon-embedded retinas. TEM-immunocytochemistry on thin sections of retinas embedded in glutaraldehyde cross-linked albumin suggested that the PRC and the CC may participate in opsin transport and disk morphogenesis.

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