Supramolecular receptor structures in the plasma membrane of lymphocytes revealed by flow cytometric energy transfer, scanning force- and transmission electron-microscopic analyses

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Receptors in the plasma membrane of blood cells in general and in that of lymphocytes in particular are supposed to move around in a random walk fashion relatively freely driven by thermal diffusion, as described by the Singer-Nicolson fluid mosaic membrane model. In this article we summarized data and techniques that indicated nonrandom codistribution patterns of receptor superstructures under conditions, where the generation of such molecular colocalizations by the methods themselves were excluded. Application of fluorescence energy transfer in a flow cytometer helped to analyze such codistribution patterns in cell populations. After normalizing energy transfer values for possible differences between labeling ratios of the targeting monoclonal antibodies and using the mean values of energy transfer distribution curves, two-dimensional receptor maps were generated from data obtained in a pair-wise fashion between receptors. Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I and II, intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), TcR-CD3-CD4, tetraspan molecules (CD81, CD82, CD53), and the subunits of the multisubunit IL-2 receptor displayed nonrandom codistribution patterns sometimes with, but very frequently without induction by their ligand. Immunogold-bead 'sandwich' labeling analyzed by atomic force microscopy has shown that such receptor 'islands' existed also in 'receptor island-groups'. This indicated the existence of nonrandom receptor distribution of MHC class I and II molecules also at an elevated hierarchical level. An analysis is given herein concerning a standardized approach. The apparent incompatibility of these supramolecular patterns with the Singer- Nicolson type 'free-protein and lipid-mobility paradigm' was resolved by recommending an additional emphasis on the mosaicism of the membrane besides receptor mobility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-233
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 1998



  • Electron microscopy
  • Fluorescence energy transfer
  • ICAM-1
  • IL-2
  • MHC
  • Scanning force microscopy
  • TCR-CD3-CD4
  • Tetraspan molecules

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Biophysics
  • Hematology
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology

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