We have used high-pressure freezing techniques to study exocytosis in rat anterior pituitary cells. The cells were either unstimulated or exposed to 1 nM growth hormone releasing factor (GRF) for 10 min before ultrarapid freezing. The magnitude of growth hormone (GH) release was then correlated with the number of exocytotic events observed with freeze-fracture electron microscopy. High-pressure freezing of unfixed and uncryoprotected specimens permits cryofixation of samples up to 1 mm diam (0.5 mm thick) without ice crystal damage, and arrests exocytotic events within 10 ms. Our studies comparing conventionally fixed specimens with those prepared by high-pressure freezing confirm that areas of intramembrane particle clearing at potential exocytotic sites are an artifact of conventional fixation and/or cryoprotection techniques. The cells exposed to 1 nM GRF released approximately fivefold more GH than did unstimulated cells. Morphologically, we have observed a 3.3-fold increase in the number of exocytotic events in GRF-stimulated cells, 33.7 events/100 micron2 compared with 10.4 events/100 micron2 for unstimulated cells. In additional experiments, we studied the effects of two inhibitors of GRF-induced exocytosis, somatostatin and sodium isethionate. Both compounds elicit the same response, a parallel decrease in exocytotic events and in secreted product. We conclude that high-pressure freezing, combined with freeze-fracture and freeze-substitution processing techniques, is an excellent tool for studying the morphological aspects of exocytosis. In the present investigation, it has allowed us to quantitatively relate the biochemistry and morphology of exocytosis in anterior pituitary cells.
B Draznin, R Dahl, N Sherman, K E Sussman, L A Staehelin