The enterocyte-like cell line Caco-2 forms a polarized epithelium when grown on filters. We have investigated the interaction of endocytic pathways from the apical and basolateral surfaces. The transferrin receptor was an appropriate marker for the basolateral route; uptake of radiolabeled transferrin was highly polarized, and recycling of this ligand back to the basolateral surface occurred with an efficiency of 95%, even after prolonged incubations with transferrin. Using a transferrin-peroxidase conjugate to delineate the morphological pathway, we have identified an early endocytic compartment in the basolateral cytoplasm of the cells. Longer incubations revealed a deeper endocytic compartment in the apical cytoplasm. Concanavalin A complexed to gold was used to simultaneously label the apical endocytic route. After 60 min, extensive mixing of the two labels was seen in endocytic elements throughout the apical cytoplasm, including in the Golgi area, but never in the basal cytoplasm. Using a second double labeling procedure in which antitransferrin receptor antibody complexed to gold was applied to the basolateral surface for up to 2 h and free peroxidase applied to the apical surface for shorter periods, we demonstrated that this apical marker rapidly (within 5 min) reached endosomes containing antibody-gold. Our results indicate that, in Caco-2 cells, the endocytic pathways from the apical and basolateral surfaces meet in an endosomal compartment from which transferrin can still be recycled.

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