Scanning Microscopy


We have previously shown that dense bodies are not the static planar simple ovoidal structures they appear to be in thin sections. In this report, we present three-dimensional reconstructions from consecutive serial thin sections through shortened and non-shortened large mesenteric artery cells. Profiles of the cell surface, membrane dense bodies, and cytoplasmic dense bodies were reconstructed from consecutive thin sections and the distribution, size, shape, and spatial relationships among these components was examined. Within the cell, membrane dense bodies are numerous and occupy approximately 10% of the cell volume. Membrane dense bodies can attach to the cell surface laterally, obliquely or normally. An individual membrane dense body can be continuous over more than 2 μm of cell depth and can change shape throughout its depth. On cell shortening, many membrane dense bodies assume a crenated shape. Compared to membrane dense bodies, cytoplasmic dense bodies are smaller in all dimensions and occupy about 2% of the cell volume. In shortened cells, cytoplasmic dense bodies appear to cluster into groups. This redistribution of cytoplasmic dense bodies may be related to the reorganization of contractile units when the cell shortens.

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