The triad is the junctional association of transverse tubule with sarcoplasmic reticulum terminal cisternae. A procedure for the isolation of highly enriched triads from skeletal muscle has been described in the previous paper. In the present study, the structural features of isolated triads have been examined by thin-section, negative-staining, and freeze-fracture electron microscopy. In isolated triads, key features of the structure observed in situ have been retained, including the osmiophilic "feet," junctional structures between the transverse tubule and terminal cisternae. New insight into triad structure is obtained by negative staining, which also enables visualization of feet at the junctional face of the terminal cisternae, whereas smaller surface particles, characteristic of calcium pump protein, are not visualized there. Therefore, the junctional face is different from the remainder of the sarcoplasmic reticulum membrane. Junctional feet as viewed by thin section or negative staining have similar periodicity and extend approximately 100 A from the surface of the membrane. Freeze-fracture of isolated triads reveals blocklike structures associated with the membrane of the terminal cisternae at the junctional face, interjunctional connections between the terminal cisternae and t-tubule, and intragap particles. The intragap particles can be observed to be closely associated with the t-tubule. The structure of isolated triads is susceptible to osmotic and salt perturbation, and examples are given regarding differential effects on transverse tubules and terminal cisternae. Conditions that adversely affect morphology must be considered in experimentation with triads as well as in their preparation and handling.
A procedure has been devised for isolation of triads (t-tubule/sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) junctional complexes) from rabbit skeletal muscle. The procedure consists of preparation of a heavy microsomal fraction followed by two sequential 90-min sucrose gradient centrifugations to enrich the triads. A pyrophosphate/phosphate/magnesium buffer system was introduced to decrease aggregation in order to achieve effective separation. The preparation time is 12 h. Some differences between purified triads isolated by two variants of this method are noted. The purity of the triad fractions has been estimated by particle counting to be in the vicinity of 50%. There is good retention of morphology and Ca++-loading activity and enrichment in Na+,K+-ATPase and adenylate cyclase. The triads are practically devoid of contractile elements, mitochondria, and free plasmalemma, and low in content of light SR. The method for obtaining enriched triads is reproducible, and sufficient yields are obtained for structural, biochemical, and functional characterization.