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Localization artefacts in ultracytochemical ion precipitation reactions


The precipitation patterns of the following ultracytochemical methods in rat muscle cells were compared and examined critically: the potassium pyroantimonate method for calcium demonstration; the calcium phosphate technique for the Ca2+ — ATPase reaction; the formazan reaction for the demonstration of creatine kinase activity (all performed on heart muscle); and the lead phosphate technique for the Mg2+ — ATPase reaction in skeletal muscle. Using X-ray microanalysis, it was found that the antimonate precipitate contains only calcium as the precipitated ion in the vast majority of cases. Most probably it consists of pure calcium pyroantimonate. However, in myocytes showing the well-established precipitation pattern, the concentration of calcium was estimated to be about two orders of magnitude higher than the native concentration of total intracellular calcium. It is concluded that calcium ions diffuse freely from the extracellular space and from adjacent cells into cells containing antimonate and are precipitated mostly at sites where heterogeneous nucleation is facilitated by intracellular catalysts (biopolymers).

As shown by the similar precipitation patterns for the four reactions compared, these catalysts are not specific to any of these reactions and are most probably neither calcium-binding sites nor sites of any one of the enzymes examined in the native cell.

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Von Zglinicki, T., Punkt, K. Localization artefacts in ultracytochemical ion precipitation reactions. Histochem J 18, 29–35 (1986).

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  • Creatine Kinase
  • Calcium Phosphate
  • Precipitation Pattern
  • Creatine Kinase Activity
  • Antimonate