The dose-related inhibition by colchicine of both lysosomal enzyme release and microtubule assembly was studied in human polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) exposed to the nonphagocytic stimulus, zymosan-treated serum (ZTS). Cells were pretreated with colchicine (60 min, 37 degrees C) with or without cytochalasin B (5 microng/ml, 10 min) and then stimulated with ZTS (10%). Microtubule numbers in both cytochalasin B-treated and untreated PMN were increased by stimulation and depressed below resting levels in a dose-response fashion by colchicine concentrations above 10(-7) M. These concentrations also inhibited enzyme release in a dose-response fashion although the inhibition of microtubule assembly was proportionately greater than the inhibition of enzyme release. Other aspects of PMN morphology were affected by colchicine. Cytochalasin B-treated PMN were rounded, and in thin sections the retracted plasma membrane appeared as invaginations oriented toward centrally located centrioles. Membrane invaginations were restricted to the cell periphery in cells treated with inhibitory concentrations of colchicine, and the centrioles and Golgi apparatus were displaced from their usual position. After stimulation and subsequent degranulation, the size and number of membrane invaginations greatly increased. They remained peripheral in cells pretreated with greater than 10(-7) M colchicine but were numerous in the pericentriolar region in cells treated with less than 10(-7) M. Similarly, untreated PMN that were permitted to phagocytose immune precipitates had many phagosomes adjacent to the centriole. After colchicine treatment, phagosomes were distributed randomly, without any preferential association with the centrioles. These data suggest that microtubules are involved in maintaining the internal organization of cells and the topologic relationships between organelles and the plasma membrane.

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