Freeze-fracture studies on the nerve cord of the leech Hirudo medicinalis reveal that the plasma membranes of various cells, including glial and muscle cells, contain at least two distinct types of aggregated intramembrane particles, identified as hemidesmosomes and gap junctions. Hemidesmosomes consist of angular particles irregularly arranged in circular or elongate patches in external leaflets (E-faces), and are associated with a bundle of intermediate filaments extending into the cytoplasm. Hemidesmosomes of specific axons abut on extracellular space at openings in the surrounding glial sheath. Gap junctions are patches of rounder particles in cytoplasmic leaflets (P-faces) and are more uniformly spaced; they have a corresponding array of pits in the complementary E-face. Gap junctions connect processes of adjacent smooth muscle cells, and apparently interconnect glial processes. Thus, different types of cells in the leech C.N.S. have similar intramembrane specializations. Moreover, the hemidesmosomes and gap junctions might, on superficial examination, be confused.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology