Annulate lamellae are cytoplasmic organelles composed of stacked sheets of membrane containing pores that are structurally indistinguishable from nuclear pores. The functions of annulate lamellae are not well understood. Although they may be found in virtually any eucaryotic cell, they occur most commonly in transformed and embryonic tissues. In Drosophila, annulate lamellae are found in the syncytial blastoderm embryo as it is cleaved to form the cellular blastoderm. The cytological events of the cellularization process are well documented, and may be used as temporal landmarks when studying changes in annulate lamellae. By using morphometric techniques to analyze electron micrographs of embryos, we are able to calculate the number of pores per nucleus in nuclear envelopes and annulate lamellae during progressive stages of cellularization. We find that annulate lamellae pores remain at a low level while nuclear envelopes are expanding and acquiring pores in early interphase. Once nuclear envelopes are saturated with pores, however, the number of annulate lamellae pores increases more than 10-fold in 9 min. Over the next 30 min it gradually declines to the initial low level. On the basis of these results, we propose (a) that pore synthesis and assembly continues after nuclear envelopes have been saturated with pores; (b) that these supernumerary pores accumulate transiently in cytoplasmic annulate lamellae; and (c) that because these pores are not needed by the embryo they are subsequently degraded.

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