Brefeldin A (BFA) induces the formation of an extensively fused network of membranes derived from the trans-Golgi network (TGN) and early endosomes (EE). We describe in detail here the unaffected passage of endocytosed material through the fused TGN/EE compartments to lysosomes in BFA-treated cells. We also confirmed that BFA caused the formation of tubular lysosomes, although the kinetics and extent of tubulation varied greatly between different cell types. The BFA-induced tubular lysosomes were often seen to form simple networks. Formation of tubular lysosomes was microtubule-mediated and energy-dependent; interestingly, however, maintenance of the tubulated lysosomes only required microtubules and was insensitive to energy poisons. Upon removal of BFA, the tubular lysosomes rapidly recovered in an energy-dependent process. In most cell types examined, the extensive TGN/EE network is ephemeral, eventually collapsing into a compact cluster of tubulo-vesicular membranes in a process that precedes the formation of tubular lysosomes. However, in primary bovine testicular cells, the BFA-induced TGN/EE network was remarkably stable (for > 12 h). During this time, the TGN/EE network coexisted with tubular lysosomes, however, the two compartments remained completely separate. These results show that BFA has multiple, profound effects on the morphology of various compartments of the endosome-lysosome system. In spite of these changes, endocytic traffic can continue through the altered compartments suggesting that transport occurs through noncoated vesicles or through vesicles that are insensitive to BFA.

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