Electron microscope autoradiographic and biochemical methods were used to study the intracellular fates of several 125I-glycoproteins, known to be specifically bound and internalized by the different cell types in the liver. At the earliest times examined (1--2 min), 125I-glycoproteins (ASGP) were localized predominantly along the sinusoidal front of hepatocytes. Analysis of the distribution of autoradiographic grains indicated that: (a) approximately 40--60% of the 125I-ligand could be ascribed to the plasmalemma; (b) a significant fraction had already been internalized; yet (c) very little 125I-ligand was present in the lysosome-Golgi region. Between 4 and 15 min after administration of 125I-ASGPs, there was a dramatic redistribution of autoradiographic grains from regions of the plasmalemma and peripheral cytoplasm (30% decrease) to the lysosome-Golgi region (30% increase). At longer times (30 min), there was continued drainage of 125I-ASGP into this region. The grain density over secondary lysosomes was 60--90 times higher than that over recognizable Golgi elements, clearly indicating that lysosomes were the ultimate destination of the 125I-ASGP. However, no more than 60% of the total 125I-ligand could be localized to lysosome-rich regions of the hepatocyte, with the remaining 40% primarily in the intermediate cytoplasm. Biochemical evidence for proteolysis of the internalized 125I-ASGP (presumably within lysosomes) was obtained when [125I]-mono-iodotyrosine was found in the liver (i.e., hepatocytes) at times later than 15 min. The temporal redistribution observed for mannose and N-acetylglucosamine-terminated glycoproteins (ahexosamino-orosomucoid and agalacto-orosomucoid, respectively) in endothelial cells indicated that the 125I-ligands resided in macropinocytic vesicles (1--15 min) before their ultimate residence in dense bodies (15 min). The same 125I-ligands were also localized to structures resembling secondary lysosomes in Kupffer cells. The lysosomal nature of "these organelles" was implied from the appearance of [125I]mono-iodotyrosine in the liver at later times. 125I-beta-glucuronidase followed the same intracellular pathway in both cell types but was not degraded.

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