Using the quick-freeze, deep-etch technique, we have analyzed the structure of the intact cell wall of Chlamydomonas reinhardi, and have visualized its component glycoproteins after mechanical shearing and after depolymerization induced by perchlorate or by the wall-disrupting agent, autolysin. The intact wall has previously been shown in a thin-section study (Roberts, K., M. Gurney-Smith, and G. J. Hills, 1972, J. Ultrastruct. Res. 40:599-613) to consist of a discrete central triplet bisecting a meshwork of fibrils. The deep-etch technique provides additional information about the architecture of each of these layers under several different experimental conditions, and demonstrates that each layer is constructed from a distinct set of components. The innermost layer of the central triplet proves to be a fibrous network which is stable to perchlorate but destabilized by autolysin, disassembling into fibrillar units we designate as "fishbones." The medial layer of the triplet is a loose assemblage of large granules. The outer layer is a thin, crystalline assembly that is relatively unaffected by autolysin. It depolymerizes into two glycoprotein species, one fibrous and one globular. The wall glycoproteins prove to be structurally similar to two fibrous proteins that associate with the flagellar membrane, namely, the sexual agglutinins and the protomers of a structure we designate a "hammock." They are also homologous to some of the fibrous components found in the extracellular matrices of multicellular plants and animals. The quick-freeze, deep-etch technique is demonstrated to be a highly informative way to dissect the structure of a fibrous matrix and visualize its component macromolecules.
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