Intracisternal granules (ICGs) are insoluble aggregates of pancreatic digestive enzymes and proenzymes that develop within the lumen of the rough endoplasmic reticulum of exocrine pancreatic cells, especially in guinea pigs. These ICGs are eliminated by autophagy. By morphological criteria, we identified three distinct and sequential classes of autophagic compartments, which we refer to as phagophores, Type I autophagic vacuoles, and Type II autophagic vacuoles. Lobules of guinea pig pancreas were incubated in media containing HRP for periods of 5-120 min to determine the relationship between the endocytic and autophagic pathways. Incubations with HRP of 15 min or less labeled early endosomes at the cell periphery that were not involved in autophagy of ICGs, but after these short incubations none of the autophagic compartments were HRP positive. After 30-min incubation with HRP, early endosomes at the cell periphery, late endosomes in the pericentriolar region, and, in addition, Type I autophagic vacuoles containing ICGs were all labeled by the tracer. Type II autophagic vacuoles were not labeled after 30-min incubation with HRP but were labeled after incubations of 60-120 min. Phagophores did not receive HRP even after 120 min incubations. We concluded that the autophagic and endocytic pathways converge immediately after the early endosome level and that Type I autophagic vacuoles precede Type II autophagic vacuoles on the endocytic pathway. We studied the distribution of acid phosphatase, lysosomal proteases and cation-independent-mannose-6-phosphate receptor (CI-M6PR) in the three classes of autophagic compartments by histochemical and immunocytochemical methods. Phagophores, the earliest autophagic compartment, contained none of these markers. Type I autophagic vacuoles contained acid phosphatase but, at most, only very low levels of cathepsin D and CI-M6PR. Type II autophagic vacuoles, by contrast, are enriched for acid phosphatase, cathepsin D, and other lysosomal enzymes, and they are also enriched for CI-M6PR. Moreover, soluble fragments of bovine CI-M6PR conjugated to colloidal gold particles heavily labeled Type II but not Type I autophagic vacuoles, and this labeling was specifically blocked by mannose-6-phosphate. This indicates that the lysosomal enzymes present in Type II autophagic vacuoles carry mannose-6-phosphate monoester residues. Using 3-C2, 4-dinitroanilino-3'-amino-N-methyldipropylamine (DAMP), we showed that Type II autophagic vacuoles are acidic. We interpret these findings as indicating that Type II autophagic vacuoles are a prelysosomal compartment in which the already combined endocytic and autophagic pathways meet the delivery pathway of lysosomal enzymes.

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