The distribution of specific glycoprotein receptors on the external surfaces of red cells was mapped, by the freeze-etching technique, to determine if the receptors coincided with the underlying 75-A intramembranous particles. Phytohemagglutinin, ferritin-conjugated phytohemagglutinin, and influenza virus were used as labeling agents since they can be seen by freeze-etching techniques and each reacts with a different site on the same glycoprotein molecule. The distribution of these labels was studied on intact human red cells, isolated ghost membranes, and trypsin-treated ghost membranes.
The results show that the receptors for these labels are distributed uniformly over the surfaces of normal red cell membranes in the same apparent distribution as that of the 75-A particles within the membrane. The association between the external receptors and the underlying particles is especially evident when trypsin-treated ghost membranes are labeled: the labeled receptor sites and the intramembranous particles both form sharply defined, reticulated networks, which overlap. These results provide further support for the idea that membrane-bound glycoproteins are oriented so that their carbohydrate-rich segments, which bear the antigenic sites and receptors, are exposed to the external medium, while hydrophobic segments of the same molecules interact with lipids, and possibly other proteins, to form the intramembranous particles.