Molecular cytochemistry of CD3 and CD4 antigens in human lymphocytes as studied by label-fracture and by fracture-label

Antonio Pavan, Patrizia Mancini, Luigi Frati, Maria Rosaria Torrisi, Pedro Pinto da Silva

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Label-fracture and fracture-label membrane immunocytochemistry are used to analyze the surface distribution, dynamics and partition on fracture of CD3 and CD4 antigens of human T lymphocytes. Redistribution of the antigens, induced by treatment at 37°C with specific monoclonal antibodies, results in patching and capping of the labeling as observed in label-fractured specimens. Examination of platinum/carbon replicas of freeze-fractured plasma membranes of antibody-treated cells does not reveal recognizable domains of intramembrane particles. However, in cells where the aggregation of intramembrane particles is induced by incubation with glycerol, colloidal gold-labeled CD3 and CD4 molecules are seen confined to particulate domains of the membrane. Therefore, the lack of visible aggregation of intramembrane particles in patched or capped regions of the membrane implies that migration of CD3 and CD4 antigens with concentration in domains of the membrane is achieved contemporaneously with export of other non-capped integral membrane proteins from the same regions, in a process of diffusional equilibrium. Examination of fracture-labeled specimens shows that CD4 molecules partition on fracture with the inner protoplasmic face of the plasma membrane. This partition illustrates the transmembrane attitude of the antigen molecule and is a probable consequence of interaction of the protein with other components of the membrane or with the cytoskeleton.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-168
Number of pages11
JournalBBA - Biomembranes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 16 1989


  • (Human lymphocyte)
  • Freeze-fracture
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Lymphocyte
  • Membrane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biophysics
  • Cell Biology


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