Fixation of HeLa cells with a mixture of 100 mM glutaraldehyde, 2 mg/ml tannic acid and 0.5 mg/ml saponin allows the tannic acid to penetrate intact cells without disruption of membranes or extraction of the cytoplasmic matrix. After subsequent treatment with OsO4 cytoplasmic structures are stained so densely that fine details are visible even in very thin (dark gray) sections. Actin filaments are protected from disruption by OsO4 so that straight, densely stained filaments are seen in the cell cortex, filopodia, ruffling membranes, and stress fibers. Stress fibers also have 15-18-nm densities similar in appearance to myosin filaments. Tannic acid staining reveals that the coats of coated vesicles, pits, and plaques have a 12-nm layer of amorphous material between the membrane and the clathrin basketwork. HeLa cells have very large clathrin-coated membrane plaques on the basal surface. These coated membrane plaques appear to be a previously unrecognized site of cell-substrate adhesion.

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