Morphology and molecular composition of isolated postsynaptic junctional structures

Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1978 Dec 4;203(1151):135-51. doi: 10.1098/rspb.1978.0097.


The solubilization of isolated brain synaptosomal plasma membranes by various detergents was studied and in each case found to depend upon detergent concentration. By using conditions sufficient to extract maximally protein and phospholipid from the membranes, postsynaptic junctional particles were isolated with each of four detergents and their ultrastructural appearances and protein contents compared. Two basic structural forms were identified. One, isolated with Triton X-100, consists of a planar array of dense-staining particles ca. 20 nm in diameter. It resembles the postsynaptic density seen in undigested synaptosomal plasma membranes. The other, isolated with sodium deoxycholate, contains less protein. It has the same overall shape and dimensions as the postsynaptic density, but consists of a branching network of short 5 nm fibres (the postsynaptic junctional lattice) making up an array of contiguous polygons, each ca. 20 nm across. The interior of these polygonal elements seems to be hydrophobic since it cannot be penetrated by metallic salts used for negative staining. It is suggested that the dense-staining 20 nm subunits observed at the postsynaptic junctional site may be composed of hydrophobic proteins inserted into the hollow cores of the lattice polygons. Electrophoretic analysis of the proteins present in the various postsynaptic junctional preparations identified two major common components with molecular masses of 275000 and 47500. The latter is tentatively identified as actin. Components comigrating respectively with alpha- and beta-tubulin are present, and the relation of the lattice structure to subjacent microtubules is discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / ultrastructure
  • Detergents
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Solubility
  • Swine
  • Synaptic Membranes / ultrastructure*


  • Detergents
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins