We describe the reconstitution of exocytotic function through recombination of purified cortical secretory vesicles (CVs) and plasma membrane from sea urchin eggs. CVs were dislodged from a cell surface complex preparation by gentle homogenization in an isotonic dissociation buffer, and purified by differential centrifugation. CV-free plasma membrane fragments were obtained by mechanically dislodging CVs from cortical lawn (CL) preparations with a jet of CL isolation buffer. This procedure produced a "plasma membrane lawn" preparation, consisting of plasma membrane fragments attached via their vitelline layer (an extracellular glycocalyx) to a polylysine-coated microscope slide. When freshly prepared CVs were incubated with plasma membrane lawns, CVs reassociated with the cytoplasmic face of the plasma membrane, forming an exocytotically competent, reconstituted cortical lawn (RL). Exocytosis in RLs was monitored by phase-contrast microscopy, and quantitated with a sensitive microphotometric assay. Half-maximal exocytosis in RLs occurred at 18.5 microM free Ca2+; half-maximal exocytosis in control lawns occurred at 5.7 microM free Ca2+. Greater than 90% of the purified CVs that were not attached to a plasma membrane lawn remained intact when bathed in a buffer containing millimolar Ca2+. This result excluded the possibility that Ca2+-triggered CV lysis was responsible for our observations, and confirmed that the association of CVs with the plasma membrane was required for exocytosis in RLs. Evidence that the Ca2+-stimulated release of CV contents in CLs and RLs is the in vitro equivalent of exocytosis was obtained with an immunofluorescence-based vectorial transport assay, using an antiserum directed against a CV content protein: stimulation of RLs or partially CV-depleted CLs with Ca2+ resulted in fusion of the CV and plasma membranes, and the vectorial transport of CV contents from the cytoplasmic to the extracytoplasmic face of the egg plasma membrane.

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