In the mast cell, a well-developed array of microtubules is centered around the centrioles. Complete loss of microtubules is observed when mast cells are treated with 10(-5) M colchicine for 4 h at 37 degrees C. The loss of ultrastructurally evident microtubules is associated with a marked change in the shape of mast cells from spheroids to highly irregular, frequently elongated forms with eccentric nuclei. In colchicine-treated cells the association of nucleus, Golgi apparatus, and centrioles is also lost. Mast cells exposed to 10(-5) M colchicine for 4 h at 37 degrees C retain 80% of their capacity to release histamine when stimulated by polymyxin B. Exocytosis is evident in stimulated cells pretreated with colchicine and lacking identifiable microtubules. When the conditions of exposure of mast cells to colchicine are varied with respect to the concentration of colchicine, the length of exposure, and the temperature of exposure, dissociation between deformation of cell shape and inhibition of histamine secretion is observed. These observations indicate that microtubules are not essential for mast cell histamine release and bring into question the assumption that the inhibitory effect of colchicine on mast cell secretion depends on interference with microtubule integrity.

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