The dynamics of the toxin Ricinus communis agglutinin II (RCAII or ricin) on cells of a murine lymphoma line (BW5147) and a toxin-resistant variant line (BW5147RicR.3) that is 200 times more resistant than the parent to direct RCAII cytotoxicity were examined using ferritin-conjugated, affinity purified, 125I-labeled RCAII (ferritin-125I-RCAII). Ferritin-125I-RCAII was indistinguishable from native RCAII in quantitative binding and cytotoxicity experiments. When RCAII-sensitive BW5147 and -resistant BW5147RicR.3 cells were labeled with ferritin-125I-RCAII at various toxin concentrations (1--10 microgram/ml), no differences in toxin binding were observed. These same cells were examined by electron microscopy. At low ferritin-125I-RCAII concentrations (1-3 microgram/ml RCAII) where only the parental BW5147 cells were significantly more sensitive to RCAII, toxin receptors were internalized by ferritin-125I-RCAII-induced endocytosis. In parallel experiments, ferritin-125I-RCAII that bound to the resistant BW5147RicR.3 cells remained relatively dispersed or clustered, and there was little evidence of transport into cells via endocytosis. At higher ferritin-125I-RCAII concentrations (greater than 7 microgram/ml RCAII) where both parental and resistant variant cells are sensitive to the cytotoxic effects of RCAII, more ferritin-conjugated toxin was bound, and subsequent endocytosis occurred to a similar degree in both cell types. Endocytosis of ferritin-conjugated concanavalin A was indistinguishable on RCAII-sensitive parental and resistant variant cells at all concentrations tested. The results suggest that a specific defect on the selected BW5147RicR.3 cells prevents RCAII entry into these cells a low toxin concentrations, rendering them more resistant to the cytotoxic effects of RCAII.

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