Scanning Microscopy


Despite a plethora of reports on the ultrastructure of secretory granule release by exocytosis, the release of coagulant activity from stimulated platelets is still being attributed to membrane vesiculation. Membrane vesiculation and the formation of myelin figures have been shown to be artifacts of glutaraldehyde GA fixation. Cells fixed by direct osmium or rapid freezing are free of such structures. Yet there is still doubt that rapid freezing interferes with vesiculation process. This study has addressed this issue by examining: (1) whether freezing and freeze-substitution affects membrane vesiculation, (2) whether paraformaldehyde-fixation also induces the phenomenon, and (3) whether the aldehyde concentration is of influence. Aldehyde fixation was carried out prior to impact freezing and freeze-substitution. In thrombin-stimulated platelets, membrane vesiculation and myelin figures were found. Glutaraldehyde induced multivesicular structures, paraformaldehyde or low aldehyde concentrations only blebs on the platelet surface. The membrane vesicles were in continuity with the cytoplasmic matrix. Unstimulated platelets did not show vesiculation or myelin figures. Control samples, without aldehyde fixation, showed instead of membrane vesiculation, granule fusion with the plasmalemma, or, instead of myelin figures, compound granules. This confirms that membrane vesiculation and the formation of myelin figures are artifacts induced by the failure of aldehydes to arrest lipid mobility within membranes undergoing rapid changes in structure. Although the presence of membrane vesiculation and myelin figures in platelets indicates that exocytotic processes were occurring at the moment of aldehyde fixation, the finding of membrane vesiculation in aldehyde-fixed platelets does not indicate a separate type of exocytosis.

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