Clathrin was isolated in highly purified form from bovine brain preparations rich in coated vesicles and by some improvements of our previous procedures. At pH 7.5, clathrin's solution was viscous, but clear. At pH 6.5, clathrin's solution was less viscous, but turbid. By electron microscopy, clathrin's turbidity at pH 6.5 correlated with the presence of numerous basket-like lattices or cages; the higher viscosity observed at pH 7.5 correlated with a mixture of various polymeric forms of clathrin having linearly assembled filaments or filamentous bundles of cross-linked clathrin molecules. In vivo, clathrin's capacity for assembling or disassembling itself into baskets or cage-like structures is compatible with a mechanism that retrieves areas of the plasma membrane containing protein molecules, smaller stimulatory or inhibitory compounds bound on the external cell membrane surface. © 1980.
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