Distribution of gap junctions and square array junctions in the mammalian lens

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1989 May;30(5):975-89.


The morphology of membrane specializations of the cortex and nucleus of bovine lenses has been analyzed for both isolated membrane fractions and intact tissue fragments. Fractions of fiber cell membranes isolated from the outer cortex and the inner nucleus of lenses have been compared using x-ray diffraction, electron microscopy, SDS polyacrylamide gels and Western blots. Each fraction has distinctive structural characteristics. In x-ray experiments, the cortical fraction gives no sharp equatorial reflections (from the plane of the membrane), whereas the nuclear fraction gives sharp equatorial reflections which index on a square lattice of 6.6 nm. In thin-section electron micrographs, the cortical fraction is composed primarily of closed vesicles and flat membrane sheets, some of which contain pentalamellar structures similar in appearance to the 16-18 nm thick gap junctions found in other tissues. The nuclear fraction contains mostly undulating membrane pairs which often show 11-14 nm pentalamellar profiles and occasionally thicker junctions. In freeze-fracture images the cortical membranes display irregular clusters of intramembrane particles which resemble gap junctions, whereas the nuclear membranes contain numerous large square arrays with a 6.6 nm repeat and few irregular clusters or individual intramembrane particles. Images of fragments of intact lenses used in the membrane isolations give similar results; in the cortex the area covered by gap junctions is over 50 times the area covered by square lattices, whereas nuclear fiber cell membranes contain large square arrays. Thus, cortical and nuclear fiber cell membranes have quite different morphologies. In particular, the size of the square arrays of protein increases as the fiber cells mature. SDS polyacrylamide gels from cortical and nuclear fractions are similar in that they both contain MP26 as the major band. However, Western blot analysis shows increasing quantities of lower molecular weight, 25 kD and 22 kD, cleavage products as one progresses from the cortex to the nucleus. These data indicate that MP26 and/or its cleavage products form square crystalline arrays in nuclear fibers. The morphology of these arrays suggests a role for MP26 in cell-to-cell adhesion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cattle
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Freeze Fracturing
  • Intercellular Junctions / ultrastructure*
  • Lens Cortex, Crystalline / ultrastructure
  • Lens, Crystalline / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • X-Ray Diffraction