The plasmalemma and hyaline ectoplasm together constitute the sensory and motor organ of macrophages. The purpose of this study was to isolate this cell fraction in order to analyze it biochemically and functionally. Brief sonification of warmed rabbit lung macrophages caused release of heterodisperse hyaline blebs and filopodia, which were easily collected by differential centrifugation. Viewed in the electron microscope, these structures consisted of membrane-bounded sacs principally containing actin filaments. Some contained secondary lysosomes. They were enriched threefold over whole cell homogenates in specific adenylate cyclase activity and in trichloroacetic-acid-precipitable (125)I when derived from cells labeled with 125(I) by means of a lactoperoxidase-catalyzed reaction. These markers were found to have identical isopycnic densitites when macrophage homogenates were subjected to sedimentation in a focusing sucrose density gradient system, and these markers had densities distinct from those of other cytoplasmic organelles. These markers were therefore assumed to be associated with macrophage plasma membranes. The specific β- glucuronidase activity of the bleb fraction was similar to that of homogenates, but the blebs had considerably lower specific succinic dehydrogenase activity and RNA content, and DNA was undetectable.
Electrophoresis of blebs solubilized in sodium dodecyl sulfate on polyacrylamide gels revealed polypeptides co-migrating with macrophage actin-binding protein, myosin, and actin; blebs also had EDTA-activated adenosine triphosphatase activity characteristic of myosin. The concentrations of actin-binding protein and myosin were higher in blebs than in cells or cytoplasmic extracts, whereas actin concentrations were similar (relative to extracts) or only slightly greater (than in cells). Blebs and intact cells had high lactate dehydrogenase activities in the presence but not the absence of Triton X-100. Blebs and cells oxidased 1-[(14)C]glucose, and the rate of glucose oxidation was increased substantially in the presence of latex beads.
We conclude that intact sacs of plasmalemma encasing contractile proteins and cytoplasmic enzymes can be isolated from macrophages. They are enriched in myosin and actin-binding protein, indicating that the contractile apparatus is regulated in the cell periphery. These structures have the capacity to respond to environmental signals. We suggest the name "podosomes" for them because of their resemblance to macrophage pseudopodia. We propose that podosome formation results from rapid dissolution of the cortical gel when the membrane is in an actively extended configuration.