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Actin in cellular components of the basement membrane of the compound eye of a blowfly

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The so-called ‘basement membrane’ of arthropod compound eyes is known to be of heterogeneous origin (Odselius and Eloffson 1981). A major contribution in Diptera with open rhabdoms is provided by a pigmented component which lies at the basal end of the extracellular space of each ommatidium and fills it, the glial plug. Ancillary components consist of the expanded tips of cone cell processes. Each glial plug exhibits two distinct regions: ramifying processes extend into the extracellular space and contain numerous pigment granules, while proximally the cytoplasm is devoid of granules but packed with bundles of cross-linked microfilaments that bind the fluorescent F-actin probe NBD-phallacidin strongly and antibodies to scallop actin weakly. Cone cell expansions also contain microfilaments and exhibit the same binding properties. The proximal faces of the cells of the glial plugs and of the cone cell expansions are covered with a coarsely fibrillar extracellular matrix. Some actin bundles appear to be attached to the plasma membranes at their ends, although the reality of this arrangement is still in question. Cellular components of the basement membrane are bonded together by their extracellular matrices, so that collectively they provide a reinforced network that retains the retina. Bundles of axons from the photoreceptors and tracheae that supply the retina with tracheoles pass through the spaces in this network.

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Author information

Correspondence to Dr. A. D. Blest.

Additional information

The authors thank Tom Van Gieren and Peter Dunlop for supplying Lucilia from CSIRO cultures, and Jonathon Howard for the nss mutant; Wendy Eddey and Claudia Sigmund for cutting thin sections, and George Weston and the Staff of the ANU Transmission Electron Microscopy Unit for support. Ep-475 was a generous gift from the Taisho Pharmaceutical Company Ltd., Tokyo, and Dr. K. Hanada. Professor Martin Raff and Dr. H. Saumweber provided monoclonal antibodies to vertebrate and Drosophila intermediate filaments, respectively. Antibodies to scallop actin were raised by H.G. de C. at the Technische Hochschule, Darmstadt in the laboratory of Professor Ute Gröschel-Stewart. Dr. Sally Stowe provided many helpful discussions

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Blest, A.D., De Couet, H.G. Actin in cellular components of the basement membrane of the compound eye of a blowfly. Cell Tissue Res. 231, 325–336 (1983). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00222184

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Key words

  • Compound eye
  • Diptera
  • Basement membrane
  • Actin
  • Fluorescent labelling