The subapical region of umbrella cells in the urinary bladder contains a dense cytokeratin (CK) network. Yet, this network should enable a very intensive traffic of specific fusiform vesicles involved in alterations of the surface area of the apical membrane. Therefore, the cytokeratins should be organised in a way to be both mechanically strong and also passable for fusiform vesicles. The supramolecular organisation of the CKs in the subapical region of umbrella cells in mice was studied by conventional fluorescence, confocal laser microscopy, and TEM. It has been found that the first 150 to 300 nm under the apical membrane is filled with fusiform vesicles and only below that the CK network begins. The CK 7 and CK 20 compose a subapical network, which is created as an array of parallel trajectories pointing to the apical plasma membrane. The network is framed by a strong wall of CK, which is parallely aligned in neighbouring cells. The double labelling of the urothelial-specific membrane proteins, uroplakins, and CKs proved the presence of fusiform vesicles within these trajectories. The measurements proved that the trajectory diameter in the upper half of the network is smaller than in the lower half. The diameters of the trajectories in animals with distended bladders exceeded those in contracted bladders for 70%, which most likely facilitates the transport of fusiform vesicles to the apical membrane. Discovery of the subapical CK network elucidates the until now undescribed supramolecular organisation of CKs in the apical region of urothelial cells.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.