The brilliantly fluorescent cytoplasmic particles that accumulate in HeLa cells treated with acridine orange, previously referred to as acridine orange particles, are shown to represent acid phosphatase positive multivesicular bodies (MVB). Dynamic changes in the ultrastructure of these organelles may be induced by varying the concentration of extracellular dye and the length of exposure to the dye. Low concentrations of dye for long intervals of time lead to marked hypertrophy of the MVB and accumulation of myelin figures within them, the acid phosphatase activity being retained. High concentrations of dye for short time intervals lead initially to a diffuse distribution of dye through out the cytoplasm (cytoplasmic reddening) as viewed in the fluorescence microscope. When cells are stained in this way and incubated in a dye-free medium, the diffusely distributed dye is segregated into MVB within 1 hour. Ultrastructurally, these MVB show dilatation but no myelin figures. The process of dye segregation is energy dependent and will not occur in starved cells. This energy dependence and the occurrence of segregation via dilatation of the MVB rather than ultrastructural transformation, i.e. formation of new binding sites, suggests that the process involves an active transport mechanism. Of the various energy sources supplied to starved cells, only glucose, mannose, and pyruvate are fully effective in supporting dye segregation. Blockage of the tricarboxylic acid cycle with malonate inhibits the effects of pyruvate but not of glucose, demonstrating the efficacy of both the tricarboxylic acid and glycolytic cycles in supplying energy for the process.

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