Lens metabolic cooperation: a study of mouse lens transport and permeability visualized with freeze-substitution autoradiography and electron microscopy

J Cell Biol. 1980 Aug;86(2):576-89. doi: 10.1083/jcb.86.2.576.


Transport of metabolites is demonstrated between compartments of the adult mouse lens by freeze-substitution autoradiography. In vivo patterns of lysine incorporation are compared with in vitro patterns of lysine, glucose, uridine, and deoxyglucose incorporation. Intracellular and extracellular distributions of tritiated metabolites are determined by comparison of transported substrates with the nontransported molecules of similar molecular size: mannitol and sucrose. The permeability of the lens intercellular spaces is probed with Procion Yellow at the level of fluorescence microscopy, and with horseradish peroxidase at the electron microscope level. Freeze-fracture electron microscopy reveals gap junctions between epithelial cells, between lens fibers, and between epithelial cells and lens fibers. Zonulae occludentes (tight junctions) are not routinely observed between epithelial cells in the mouse. This latter result is subject to species variation, however, since zonulae occludentes are abundant between chicken epithelial cells. The permeability results suggest that the lens cells are capable of metabolic cooperation, mediated by an extensive gap junction network.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoradiography
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Communication*
  • Cell Membrane Permeability*
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Freeze Fracturing
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Lens, Crystalline / metabolism*
  • Lysine / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron


  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Glucose
  • Lysine