After receptor-mediated uptake, asialoglycoproteins are routed to lysosomes, while transferrin is returned to the medium as apotransferrin. This sorting process was analyzed using 3,3'-diaminobenzidine (DAB) cytochemistry, followed by Percoll density gradient cell fractionation. A conjugate of asialoorosomucoid (ASOR) and horseradish peroxidase (HRP) was used as a ligand for the asialoglycoprotein receptor. Cells were incubated at 0 degree C in the presence of both 131I-transferrin and 125I-ASOR/HRP. Endocytosis of prebound 125I-ASOR/HRP and 131I-transferrin was monitored by cell fractionation on Percoll density gradients. Incubation of the cell homogenate in the presence of DAB and H2O2 before cell fractionation gave rise to a density shift of 125I-ASOR/HRP-containing vesicles due to HRP-catalyzed DAB polymerization. An identical change in density for 125I-transferrin and 125I-ASOR/HRP, induced by DAB cytochemistry, is taken as evidence for the concomitant presence of both ligands in the same compartment. At 37 degrees C, sorting of the two ligands occurred with a half-time of approximately 2 min, and was nearly completed within 10 min. The 125I-ASOR/HRP-induced shift of 131I-transferrin was completely dependent on the receptor-mediated uptake of 125I-ASOR/HRP in the same compartment. In the presence of a weak base (0.3 mM primaquine), the recycling of transferrin receptors was blocked. The cell surface transferrin receptor population was decreased within 6 min to 15% of its original size. DAB cytochemistry showed that sorting between endocytosed 131I-transferrin and 125I-ASOR/HRP was also blocked in the presence of primaquine. These results indicate that transferrin and asialoglycoprotein are taken up via the same compartments and that segregation of the transferrin-receptor complex and asialoglycoprotein occurs very efficiently soon after uptake.

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