Topology of morphologically detectable protein and cholesterol in membranes of polypeptide-secreting cells

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1981 Dec 18;296(1080):47-54. doi: 10.1098/rstb.1981.0170.


The freeze-fracture morphology of intracellular and plasma membranes in endocrine and exocrine polypeptide-secreting cells has been studied to detect changes while these membranes interact during secretion. A qualitative and quantitative evaluation of intramembrane particles and filipin binding as indicators of protein and cholesterol content of the membranes, respectively, reveals the following changes. From the forming of the maturing pole of the Golgi complex, membranes lose morphologically detectable protein and gain morphologically detectable cholesterol. The protein-poor, cholesterol-rich secretory granule membrane then interacts with a richly particulate plasma membrane in endocrine cells and with a moderately particulate luminal membrane in exocrine cells. The site of interaction between secretory granule and plasma membrane is characterized by a local clearing of intramembrane particles; by contrast, filipin-binding sites revealing cholesterol are present in this area. In exocrine cells, the fused secretory granule, which is initially rich in filipin-cholesterol complexes and poor in particles, appears to lose progressively its filipin labelling to resemble the poorly labelled luminal membrane. These findings, although they cannot be interpreted definitely at present, clearly show impressive changes of membrane structure along the secretory pathway and suggest that a corresponding degree of functional specialization is needed for proper interaction to occur.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / physiology*
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cholesterol / physiology*
  • Exocytosis
  • Golgi Apparatus / physiology
  • Intracellular Membranes / physiology
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans / ultrastructure
  • Membrane Lipids / physiology*
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology*
  • Parotid Gland / physiology
  • Parotid Gland / ultrastructure
  • Peptides / metabolism*


  • Membrane Lipids
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Peptides
  • Cholesterol