Using the direct conjugate of epidermal growth factor (EGF) and horseradish peroxidase, we have followed the entry of EGF into KB (human carcinoma) cells. EGF initially was found bound diffusely to the entire cell surface at 4 degrees C; on warming to 37 degrees C, EGF was found clustered in clathrin-coated pits on the plasma membrane in 1 min or less. Within 1-2 min at 37 degrees C, EGF began to accumulate in receptosomes within the cell and remained there for up to 10 min. At 10-13 min after warming to 37 degrees C, EGF was found in thin reticular membranous elements of the Golgi system, as well as concentrated in the clathrin-coated pits present on these membranes. By 15 min after warming, EGF began to be delivered to lysosomes located near the Golgi system. These findings suggest that clathrin-coated pits in the Golgi reticular system accumulate EGF before delivery to lysosomes.

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