After the membrane impermeant dye Lucifer Yellow is introduced into the cytoplasmic matrix of J774 cells, the dye is sequestered within cytoplasmic vacuoles and secreted into the extracellular medium. In the present work we studied the intracellular transport of Lucifer Yellow in J774 macrophages and the nature of the cytoplasmic vacuoles into which this dye is sequestered. When the lysosomal system of J774 cells was prelabeled with a Texas red ovalbumin conjugate and Lucifer Yellow was then loaded into the cytoplasm of the cells by ATP-mediated permeabilization of the plasma membrane, the vacuoles that sequestered Lucifer Yellow 30 min later were distinct from the Texas red-stained lysosomes. After an additional 30 min Lucifer Yellow and Texas red colocalized in the same membrane bound compartments, indicating that the Lucifer Yellow had been delivered to lysosomes. We next prelabeled the plasma membrane of J774 cells with anti-macrophage antibody and Texas red protein A before Lucifer Yellow was loaded into the cells. The phase-lucent vacuoles that subsequently sequestered Lucifer Yellow also stained with Texas red, showing that they were part of the endocytic pathway. J774 cells were fractionated on percoll density gradients either 15 or 60 min after Lucifer Yellow was introduced into the cytoplasmic matrix of the cells. In cells fractionated after 15 min, Lucifer Yellow was contained within the fractions of light buoyant density that contain plasma membrane and endosomes; the dye later appeared in vesicles of higher density which contained lysosomes. Secretion of Lucifer Yellow from the cytoplasmic matrix of J774 cells is inhibited by the organic anion transport blocker probenecid. We found that probenecid also reversibly inhibited sequestration of dye, indicating that sequestration of dye within cytoplasmic vacuoles was also mediated by organic anion transporters. These studies show that the vacuoles that sequester Lucifer Yellow from the cytoplasmic matrix of J774 cells possess the attributes of endosomes. Thus, in addition to their role in sorting of membrane bound and soluble substances, macrophage endosomes may play a role in the accumulation and transport of molecules resident in the soluble cytoplasm.

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