Immunofluorescence microscopy with a fluorescein-labeled monoclonal antibody was used to map the distribution of sodium- and potassium-ion stimulated ATPase [( Na,K]-ATPase) on the surface of tissue-cultured chick skeletal muscle. At this level of resolution it appeared that the (Na,K)-ATPase molecules were distributed nearly uniformly over the plasma membrane. These molecules could be cross-linked by use of the monoclonal antibody followed by a second antibody directed against the monoclonal antibody; the resulting fluorescent pattern was a set of small dots (patches) on the muscle surface. This pattern was stable over several hours, and there was little evidence of interiorization or of coalescence of the patches. Myotubes labeled with immunofluorescence were fixed in glutaraldehyde, cryoprotected with glycerin, then fractured and replicated by standard methods. Replicas of the immunofluorescence-labeled myotubes revealed clusters of intramembrane particles (IMP) only when the immunofluorescent images indicated a patching of the (Na,K)-ATPase molecules. Double antibody cross-linking of antigenic sites on myotubes with each of three other monoclonal antibodies to plasma membrane antigens likewise resulted in patched patterns of immunofluorescence, but in none of these cases were clusters of intramembrane particles found in freeze-fracture replicas. In each case it was shown that the (Na,K)-ATPase molecules were not patched. Other control experiments showed that patching of (Na,K)-ATPase molecules did not cause co-patching of one of the other plasma membrane proteins defined by a monoclonal antibody and did not cause detectable co-clustering of acetylcholine receptors. Detailed mapping showed that there was a one-to-one correspondence between immunofluorescent patches related to the (Na,K)-ATPase and clusters of IMP in a freeze-fracture replica of the same cell. We conclude that the intramembrane particles patched by double antibody cross-linkage of the (Na,K)-ATPase are caused by (Na,K)-ATPase molecules in the fracture plane. Quantification of the IMP indicated that the (Na,K)-ATPase-related particles account for up to 50% of particles evident in the replicas, or up to about 400 particles/micrometers2 of plasma membrane. Particles related to the (Na,K)-ATPase were similar to the average particle size and were as heterodisperse in size as the total population of IMP.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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