A cell-free model for the transfer of endocytosed material to lysosomes is described. Rat liver late endosomes, loaded in vivo with radiolabeled ligand by intravenous injection shortly before killing the animal, showed a specific interaction with lysosomes when incubated at 37 degrees C in the presence of cytosol and an ATP regenerating system. The location of the ligand, generally asialofetuin, was analyzed by isopycnic centrifugation on Nycodenz gradients. Appearance of radiolabel in the lysosomal position on such gradients was maximal after approximately 30 min at 37 degrees C and required the provision of undamaged cytosol, lysosomes, and an ATP regenerating system. It could not be accounted for by nonspecific bulk aggregation of membranes. Transfer occurred only from late endosomes; radiolabel in early endosomes was unaffected. Digestion of the asialofetuin, as shown by the appearance of TCA-soluble radioactivity, occurred on incubation at 37 degrees C and was increased by the provision of an ATP regenerating system.

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