Conjugates of horseradish peroxidase (HRP) and immunoglobulin G (IgG) were used to map the distribution of cell surface receptors that can bind IgG at 0 degrees C within the small intestine of 10-12-d-old rats. Luminal receptors are present only within the duodenum and proximal jejunum. In these locations, receptors are limited to absorptive cells that line the upper portion of individual villi. Near villus tips, receptors are relatively evenly distributed over the entire luminal plasmalemma. In the midregion of villi, receptors are unevenly distributed over the luminal surface. Receptors (a) specifically bind rat and rabbit IgG, (b) recognize the Fc portion of the immunoglobulins, and (c) bind at pH 6.0 but not pH 7.4. To determine whether IgG receptors are confined to the luminal portion of the plasmalemma, intact epithelial cells were isolated from the proximal intestine of 10-12-d-old rats and incubated with HRP conjugates at 0 degree C. The specific binding of rat IgG-HRP to cells at pH 6.0 indicates that IgG receptors, which are functionally similar to those found on the luminal surface, are also present over the entire abluminal surface of absorptive cells. These results are consistent with the transport of IgG to the abluminal plasma membrane in the form of IgG-receptor complexes on the surface of vesicles. Exposure of these complexes to the serosal plasma, which is presumably at pH 7.4, would cause release of IgG from the receptors. To assess possible inward movement of vesicles from the abluminal surface after discharge of IgG, intravenously injected HRP was used as a space-filling tracer in the serosal plasma. HRP could be visualized within the coated and tubular vesicles responsible for transport of IgG in the opposite direction. These vesicles may, therefore, provide a pathway whereby receptors shuttle between the luminal and abluminal surfaces of cells.

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