Mast cells from the peritoneal cavity of the rat were obtained at various times following in situ injection of a colloidal thorium dioxide preparation (Thorotrast). They were prepared for electron microscopy by aldehyde fixation, osmium tetroxide postfixation, and embedding in Epon. Thorotrast was rapidly taken up by mast cells through enhanced or newly elicited surface specializations. It was confined at first to large vesicles which moved to the Golgi area. Subsequently, in a matter of a few hours only, it became associated with progressively more mature granules, including "fully" mature ones. In addition to demonstrating a further phagocytic or pinocytotic activity of mast cells, the findings suggest that mast cell granules share a common membranous investment, and that substances from the tissue environment may theoretically percolate over and interact with the granules. Mast cell function could thus be served primarily by absorptive rather than secretory processes.

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