The representation of mouse alloantigens belonging to three systems, H-2, θ and TL, on the surface of cells from thymus, spleen, lymph nodes, and peritoneal cavity, was studied by electron microscopy with ferritin-labeled antibody. As expected from earlier serological data, TL was confined to thymocytes, θ was found on thymocytes and lymphocytes, and H-2 occurred to some extent on all cell types observed. On reticular cells, lymphocytes, plasma cells, and eosinophils, the majority of the cell surface was occupied by H-2; thymocytes had considerably less H-2, and erythrocytes and peritoneal macrophages least of all. In every instance the representation of antigen was discontinuous, the fraction of the cell surface covered being characteristic both of the antigen and of the type of cell. H-2 and θ provide a striking example of this; H-2 is present in far higher amounts on lymphocytes than on thymocytes, whereas the converse is true of θ. Within areas positive for H-2 or θ, protuberances of the surface membrane were often antigen-negative.
A better definition of cell surface structure, gained from studies such as this, is necessary for further inquiry into how the cell surface is assembled, and into selective gene action in relation to cellular differentiation.