The synapse-specific Mr 43,000 protein (43K protein) and the acetylcholine receptor were visualized by freeze-etch immunoelectron microscopy in preparations of purified Torpedo postsynaptic membranes. Vesicles were immobilized on glass and then sheared open by sonication to expose the cytoplasmic surface. Membranes were labeled with monoclonal antibodies to the 43K protein or the acetylcholine receptor. The cytoplasmic surface was devoid of filamentous structure, and the 43K protein and the cytoplasmic projection of the acetylcholine receptor were associated with prominent surface particles. Acetylcholine receptor and 43K protein, in membrane surfaces in direct contact with glass coated with polyornithine, segregated into dense particle aggregates separated by smooth membrane patches, whereas those in contact with glass coated with Alcian Blue underwent little or no detectable rearrangement. After treatment of vesicles at alkaline pH to remove the 43K protein, the cytoplasmic surfaces were still covered by a dense array of particles that were more uniform in shape and appeared slightly shorter than those seen on unextracted membranes, but similar in height to the extracellular projection. Monoclonal antibodies to the acetylcholine receptor labeled these particles, while antibodies to 43K protein did not. We conclude that the 43K protein is in direct association with the receptor and that complexes of the receptor and 43K protein can undergo surface-induced lateral redistribution. In addition, the cytoplasmic projection of the acetylcholine receptor is sufficiently large to be readily detected by freeze-etch electron microscopy and is similar in height to the extracellular projection.