Cultured bovine adrenal medullary cells are an excellent preparation for quantitative analysis of the secretory exocytosis/endocytosis cycle. In this paper we examine the kinetics of endocytosis after stimulation of secretion. Membrane retrieval was monitored by uptake of the fluid phase marker horseradish peroxidase. Horseradish peroxidase was found to be suitable because it can be washed off completely, assayed quantitatively, and its uptake increases linearly with concentration. If this marker is present during stimulation, the rate of uptake is initially slower than catecholamine secretion but faster at a later time, suggesting that the formation of endocytotic vesicles follows exocytosis. To monitor the time-dependent concentration of secretory vesicle-plasma membrane fusion product (omega-profiles), secretion was halted at various time intervals after stimulation and the excess membrane allowed to transform into endocytotic vesicles in the presence of horseradish peroxidase. By adding horseradish peroxidase at various times after inhibition of secretion, the time course of membrane retrieval could be measured directly. All our results are consistent with a two-step kinetic model in which exocytosis and membrane retrieval are consecutive events. The estimated volumes of the compartments involved are roughly equal. The rate of endocytosis is strongly temperature-dependent but unaffected by extracellular calcium in the range of 10(-8)-2.5 X 10(-3) M, suggesting that calcium is not required at the site of endocytotic membrane fusion. Membrane retrieval is also unaffected by Lanthanum (1 mM) but is slowed by hypertonic media.

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