Structural domains of the tight junctional intramembrane fibrils. Academic Article uri icon


  • Freeze-fracture reveals intramembrane fibrils lying along the intermembrane contacts that characterize tight junctions. Tight junctions from a variety of species are reexamined here by rapid freezing prior to freeze-fracture. The tight junction fibril is uprooted alternatively from either the cytoplasmic or the exoplasmic hemibilayer during freeze-cleavage, exposing two distinct but complementary views of its hybrid structure within the same replica. When the transmembrane fibril is uprooted from the exoplasmic hemibilayer it appears on the P-fracture face as a smooth-surfaced cylinder which is sometimes resolved into periodic globular structures. The lack of indication that the P-face cylinder has been pulled out through the opposite membrane half indicates that this domain of the fibril is, in large part, buried in the hydrophobic interior of the membrane. However, when the transmembrane fibril is uprooted from the cytosolic hemibilayer it appears on the E-fracture face as a row of irregular intramembrane particles. The irregular particles on the E-face aspect of the fibril are interpreted as corresponding to transmembrane protein segments that may very well make projections onto the cytosolic surface of the bilayer. En face views of the outermost junction strand between adjacent epithelial cells show periodic lines on the bilayer on each side of the junction which are interpreted as periodic transmembrane protein segments arising from the core structure of the tight junction fibril. If the backbone of the tight junction strand is an inverted cylindrical micelle, it must typically include proteins, which might anchor it to structures outside the membrane bilayer.

publication date

  • 1992