A freeze-fracture study of photoreceptor presynaptic membranes during ribbon synapse formation. Academic Article uri icon


  • The outer plexiform layer (OPL) of the developing chick retina from 11 embryonic days to 11/2 weeks posthatching has been studied by freeze-fracture to characterize changes in the membrane structure of photoreceptor terminals during synaptogenesis. At early stages, the undifferentiated photoreceptor synaptic base is characterized by a sparse distribution of intramembrane articles on the inner leaflet (P-face). Later, as the synaptic base begins to differentiate by extending filopodia into the OPL, numerous small aggregates of large particles appear between and on filopodial surfaces. Many of the aggregates occupy crater-like expressions, which are seen in cross-fractures through the underlying cytoplasm to be associated with vesicular invaginations of the presynaptic membrane. Corresponding thin sections through these regions at this time reveal immature arciform densities and coated vesicles fusing with the presynaptic membrane adjacent to these densities. At later stages, many of the particle aggregates on the photoreceptor membrane appear to have coalesced into longer arrays overlying ridges surrounded by numerous vesicle fusion sites. These intramembrane changes correlate with the formation of the mature arciform density-synaptic ribbon specialization in the photoreceptor presynaptic terminal and with physiological maturation of the chick retina.

publication date

  • April 1981