Relative roles of gap junction channels and cytoplasm in cell-to-cell diffusion of fluorescent tracers.
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Intercellular (tissue) diffusion of molecules requires cytoplasmic diffusion and diffusion through gap junctional (or cell-to-cell) channels. The rates of tissue and cytoplasmic diffusion of fluorescent tracers, expressed as an effective diffusion coefficient, De, and a cytoplasmic diffusion coefficient, Dcyt, have been measured among the developing epidermal cells of a larval beetle, Tenebrio molitor L., to determine the contribution of the junctional channels to intercellular diffusion. Tracer diffusion was measured by injecting fluorescent tracers into cells and quantitating the rate of subsequent spread into adjacent cells. Cytoplasmic diffusion was determined by fluorescence photobleaching. These experiments show that gap junctional channels constitute approximately 70-80% of the total cell-to-cell resistance to the diffusion of organic tracers at high concentrations in this tissue. At low concentrations, however, the binding of tracer to cytoplasm slows down the cytoplasmic diffusion, which may limit intercellular diffusion.
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