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Abstract

Endothelial plasmalemmal vesicles were examined in serial sections and in deep-etch replicas of rapid-frozen rat muscle capillary endothelium. Numerous fused vesicles were observed in both preparations. The morphology of the vesicles in rapid-frozen capillaries differed from that in the chemically fixed ones; rapid-frozen vesicles were spherical rather than ovoid, and the necks of caveolae and the connecting portion of fused vesicles were wider than those of chemically fixed ones. In the serial sections, true free vesicles were rarely identified (1.6%). In the deep-etch replicas, some of the cytoplasmic surface of vesicles had a mulberrylike appearance and intracytoplasmic fine fibrils appeared to connect the vesicles either to other vesicles or to the plasmalemma proper. Two transendothelial channels were found among 250 capillary profiles. Almost all endothelial “vesicles” proved to be invaginations of the surface membrane, and chemical fixatives did not seem to induce any substantial membrane fusion. These observations suggest that transendothelial transport of large macromolecules across continuous capillary endothelium is carried out mainly by diffusion through transendothelial channels.