Horseradish peroxidase (HRP) uptake was used to measure fluid-phase pinocytosis in monolayers of human epithelioid carcinoma cells (A-431). Histochemistry confirmed that cell-associated HRP was restricted to intracellular vesicles. Biochemical methods showed that HRP uptake in control cultures was directly proportional to the duration of exposure. The addition of low concentrations of epidermal growth factor (EGF) to the incubation media produced a 10-fold increase in the initial rate of pinocytosis. The EGF effect was rapid (within 30 s) but transient; the rate of pinocytosis returned to control levels within 15 min. Metabolic inhibitors reduced the EGF-stimulated rate of pinocytosis by greater than 90%. A conjugate of EGF and ferritin (F:EGF) was used to simultaneously compare the intracellular locations of EGF and HRP. Much of F:EGF was internalized in approximately 100-nm vesicles, while most of the HRP was located in much larger vesicles (range 0.1--1.2 micrometer) which also contained F:EGF. The tumor-promoter 12-0-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate, which shares several biological activities with EGF, was also effective in stimulating an increase in the rate of pinocytosis.

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