Scanning Microscopy


Endothelial fenestrae control the exchange of fluids, solutes and particles between the sinusoidal lumen and the microvillous surface of the parenchymal cells. Fenestrae have a critical dimension in the order of 150-200 nm, making it necessary to use microscopes with a resolution better than the light microscope. Comparative whole-mount preparations of isolated, purified and cultured rat liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LEC) were studied by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM). Examination of detergent-extracted LEC by SEM and TEM shows an integral cytoskeleton: sieve plates are delineated by a sieve plate-associated cytoskeleton ring and fenestrae by a fenestrae-associated cytoskeleton ring. By using microtubule altering agents we could demonstrate: (1) the architectural role of microtubules in arranging fenestrae, (2) the existence of a population of microtubules resistant against low temperature and colchicine, (3) the ability of LEC to shift the microtubule assembly-disassembly steady state under various conditions, (4) and the necessity of an intact microtubular cytoskeleton to support the increase in the number of fenestrae after cytochalasin B. Topographical examinations of AFM images revealed that sieve plates are delineated by elevated borders, probably projections of the underlying tubular cytoskeleton.

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