Fusion of phagolysosomes (PLs) has been demonstrated to occur in vitro. Two separate cell homogenates of the ameba Acanthamoeba sp. (Neff) were prepared, each rich in PLs labeled with distinctive particulate markers. Portions of each were incubated together in vitro and fusion occurred as evidenced by the appearance of PLs containing both types of markers. Fusion was confirmed by electron microscopy, including serial sectioning. The membranes of fused vacuoles excluded the dye eosin Y. Surviving cells in the homogenates were not responsible for the observed fusion. Fusion was obtained using either synthetic markers (polystyrene and polyvinyltoluene latex) or biological markers (autoclaved yeast cells and glutaraldehyde-fixed goat red blood cells), or a combination of both. The specificity of PL fusion in vivo appeared to be maintained in vitro. As determined by light and electron microscopy, the fusion reaction was dependent on time and temperature, and on the initial presence of membrane around both marker particles. A minimum of 10% of the vacuoles fused by 10 min of incubation at 30 degrees C, and no rupture of the vacuoles was detected during this time. After 10 min of incubation, vacuole rupture began and fusion ceased. At a constant initial vacuole concentration, the extent of PL fusion in vitro was quantitatively reproducible. This appears to be a promising system for further investigation of membrane fusion in the lysosomal system.

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