Scanning Microscopy


Content and distribution of diffusible ions in epithelial cells were studied by scanning transmission electron microscopy and energy dispersive electron probe X-ray microanalysis of freeze-dried cryosections from trout kidney, rat liver and Malpighian tubules of Drosophila larvae. Cryofixation of small excised kidney and liver samples by rapid immersion into liquid propane resulted in intracellular K/Na-ratios < 1. In contrast, K/Na-ratios > 7 were obtained after in situ cryofixation by means of a cryopunching device which allows tissue pieces to be frozen during excision from the intact organ. Isolated hepatocytes cryofixed in a small droplet of culture medium had a K/Na-ratio of 3.7. After culturing the hepatocytes, the K/Na-ratio increased to 24. Effects of extracellular media of different composition on the intracellular element content were studied. Malpighian tubules of Drosophila larvae were cryofixed by rapid immersion into liquid propane, and the distribution of K across the cells forming the tubules from the basal to the apical cell membrane was measured. An increasing K gradient was found from the intermediate to the apical cytoplasm. The intracellular K distribution was dependent on ions and transport inhibitors present in the fluid surrounding the Malpighian tubules within the larvae. Content and distribution of ions in epithelial cells sensitively depend on the physiological state immediately before cryofixation. Thus, electron probe X-ray microanalysis of cells and cell functions requires careful selection and control of the cell system to be studied.

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