To investigate the origin and nature of vesicles found within multivesicular bodies (mvb), the cytochemical staining properties of mvb vesicles were compared with those of other cytoplasmic vesicles, i.e. those associated with the Golgi complex and endocytic vesicles found near the apical cell surface. Rat epididymal tissue was stained in unbuffered OsO4 for 40–48 hr, and the distribution of stain was compared to that of reaction products for acid phosphatase (AcPase) to mark lysosomal vesicles, or thiamine pyrophosphatase (TPPase) to mark certain Golgi vesicles, or infused with peroxidase (HRPase) to demonstrate endocytic vesicles. Mvb vesicles were stained only by OsO4; AcPase, TPPase, and HRPase reaction products stained the mvb matrix. OsO4 also stained certain vesicles along the convex surface of the Golgi complex. The findings suggest that mvb vesicles in epididymal epithelium are not lysosomes and are not involved in protein uptake. The majority of these vesicles have cytochemical reactions in common with vesicles located along the convex surface of the Golgi complex and may be derived therefrom. A minority are derived from the mvb-limiting membrane.

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