Secretory granules of sheep thyroid parafollicular cells contain serotonin, a serotonin-binding protein, and calcitonin. Parafollicular cells, isolated by affinity chromatography, were found to secrete serotonin when activated by thyrotropin (TSH) or elevated [Ca2+]e. TSH also induced a rise in [Ca2+]i. We studied the effect of these secretogogues on the pH difference (delta pH) across the membranes of the secretory granules of isolated parafollicular cells. The trapping of the weak bases, acridine orange or 3-(2,4 dinitro anilino)-3'-amino-N-methyl dipropylamine (DAMP), within the granules was used to evaluate delta pH. In contrast to lysosomes, which served as an internal control, the secretory granules of resting parafollicular cells displayed a limited and variable ability to trap either acridine orange or 3-(2,4 dinitro anilino)-3'-amino-N-methyl dipropylamine; however, when parafollicular cells were stimulated with TSH or elevated [Ca2+]e, the granules acidified. Weak base trapping was also used to evaluate the ATP-driven H+ translocation into isolated parafollicular granules. The isolated parafollicular granules did not acidify in response to addition of ATP unless their transmembrane potential was collapsed by the K+ ionophore, valinomycin. Secretory granules isolated from TSH-treated parafollicular cells had a high chloride conductance than did granules isolated similarly from untreated cells. Furthermore, ATP-driven H+ translocation into parafollicular granules isolated from TSH-stimulated parafollicular cells occurred even in the absence of valinomycin. These results demonstrate that secretogogues can regulate the internal pH of the serotonin-storing secretory granules of parafollicular cells by opening a chloride channel associated with the granule membrane. This is the first demonstration that the pH of secretory vesicles may be modified by altering the conductance of a counterion for the H+ translocating ATPase.

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