• caveolae;
  • channels;
  • endothelium;
  • NEM;
  • transport


Serum macromolecules are transported through the vascular endothelial layer to the interstitium via the caveolae and interendothelial clefts, but the nature of the permeability of these structures is unknown, and the manner of caveola-vesicle transport is controversial. We have developed a method of detecting macromolecular channels using an in situ HRP perfusion into arteries previously perfused with aldehyde and random conventional sectioning for electron microscopy. Using unbiased morphometry, 4.75% of the abluminal caveolae and 15.13% of the intercellular clefts were the tracer-positive in rat aortic endothelium. In rat aortas treated with N-ethylmaleimide, all caveolae and most free vesicles in the cytoplasm except those around the Golgi area were HRP-positive in the endothelial cells; 1.48% of abluminal caveolae were structurally recognized as caveolar channels through the endothelial layer in a plane of single section. The length density of the abluminal caveolae was decreased to about 80% to the physiological control level whereas the larger invaginations were more frequently observed. Moreover 96.17% of the intercellular clefts were HRP-positive. We suggest that a flexible channel-system functions extensively as a macromolecular transport pathway in the arterial endothelium in vivo because the tracer-labeled abluminal caveolae and intercellular clefts should be opened to the luminal surfaces methodologically. We therefore propose that caveolar channels, rather than transcytosis, provide a mechanism of caveola-vesicle transport in the endothelial cells, because free vesicles involved in transcytosis were few in number. Anat Rec 264:32–42, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.