The formation and fate of apical endocytic vesicles in resting and isoproterenol-stimulated rat parotid acinar cells were studied using luminally administered horseradish peroxidase (HRP) to mark the vesicles. The tracer was taken up from the lumen by endocytosis in small, smooth-surfaces "c"- or ring-shaped vesicles. About 1 h after HRP administration the vesicles could be found adjacent to the Golgi apparatus. At later times HRP reaction product was localized in multivesicular bodies and lysosomes; in isoproterenol-stimulated cells it was also present in autophagic vacuoles. HRP reaction product was never localized in any structure associated with secretory granule formation. These results suggest that the apical endocytic vesicles play a role in membrane recovery, but that they are degraded and not reutilized directly in secretory granule formation. Additionally, it was found that when isoproterenol was injected before HRP administration, the apical junctional complexes became permeable to the tracer, allowing it to gain access to the lateral and basal intercellular spaces. This permeability may provide an additional route whereby substances in the extracellular fluid could reach the saliva.

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