Electron microscope radioautography has been used to study hormone-receptor interaction. At intervals of 3, 10, and 20 min after the injection of 125I-insulin, free hormone was separated from bound hormone by whole body perfusion with modified Ringer's solution. The localization of bound hormone, fixed in situ by perfusion with glutaraldehyde, was determined. At 3 min, 125I-insulin has been shown to be exclusively localized to the hepatocyte plasmalemma (Bergeron et al., 1977, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., 74:5051--5055). In the present study, quantitation indicated that 10(5) receptors were present per cell and distributed equally along the sinusoidal and lateral segments of the hepatocyte plasmalemma. At later times, label was found in the Golgi region. At 10 min, both secretory elements of the Golgi apparatus and lysosome-like vacuoles were labeled, and at 20 min the label was especially concentrated over the latter vacuoles. Acid phosphatase cytochemistry showed that the vacuoles did not react and therefore were presumed not to be lysosomal. These Golgi vacuoles may constitute a compartment involved in the initial degradation and/or site of action of the hormone. Control experiments were carried out at all time intervals and consisted of parallel injections of radiolabeled insulin with excess unlabeled hormone. At all times in controls, label was diminished over hepatocytes and was found primarily over endothelial cells and within the macropinocytotic vesicles and dense bodies of these cells. Kupffer cells and lipocytes were unlabeled after the injection of 125I-insulin with or without excess unlabeled insulin.

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