Hepatocytes of estradiol-treated rats, which express many low density lipoprotein receptors, rapidly accumulate intravenously injected low density lipoprotein in multivesicular bodies (MVBs). We have isolated MVBs and Golgi apparatus fractions from livers of estradiol-treated rats. MVB fractions were composed mainly of large vesicles, approximately 0.55 micron diam, filled with remnantlike very low density lipoproteins, known to be taken up into hepatocytes by receptor-mediated endocytosis. MVBs also contained numerous small vesicles, 0.05-0.07 micron in diameter, and had two types of appendages: one fingerlike and electron dense and the other saclike and electron lucent. MVBs contained little galactosyltransferase or arylsulfatase activity, and content lipoproteins were largely intact. Very low density lipoproteins from Golgi fractions, which are derived to a large extent from secretory vesicles, were larger than those of MVB fractions and contained newly synthesized triglycerides. Membranes of MVBs contained much more cholesterol and less protein than did Golgi membranes. We conclude that two distinct lipoprotein-filled organelles are located in the bile canalicular pole of hepatocytes. MVBs, a major prelysosomal organelle of low density in the endocytic pathway, contain remnants of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins, whereas secretory vesicles of the Golgi apparatus contain nascent very low density lipoproteins.

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