Mouse peritoneal macrophages have been studied in vitro after ingestion of treated rat, rabbit, or sheep erythrocytes. Under light microscopy, phagocytic vacuoles persist up to 24 h. Macrophages lose benzidine reactivity about 5 h after red cell ingestion, and they become prussian blue positive at 2 days. Ultrastructural studies show little or no ferritin in control macrophages not fed erythrocytes. In contrast, after red cell ingestion, ferritin is widely distributed in the cytoplasmic matrix and in some cytoplasmic granules by 48 h. The Golgi complex, pinocytic vacuoles, endoplasmic reticulum, nuclei, and mitochondria do not contain ferritin. Between 2 and 4 days, ferritin in cytoplasmic granules increases, concomitant with decrease in the ferritin in the cytoplasmic matrix. Evidence is presented suggesting that ferritin in the cytoplasmic matrix is translocated into cytoplasmic granules by autophagy. Polyacrylamide gel studies on macrophages after uptake of red blood cells labeled with radioiron confirm that macrophages produce radiolabeled ferritin by 4 days.

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