This study on human neutrophils was conducted to measure the kinetics of degranulation of the different cytoplasmic granules into phagocytic vacuoles, and to relate the timing of these events to the burst of respiration that accompanies phagocytosis by these cells. Purified neutrophils were incubated with latex particles opsonized with human immunoglobulin (Ig)G, and phagocytosis was stopped at timed intervals. The cells were examined by electron microscopy to document the sequence of degranulation of the cytoplasmic granules. The azurophil granules and lyosomes were identified by histochemical staining for peroxidase and acid phosphatase, respectively. Phagocytic vacuoles were separated from cell homogenates by floatation on sucrose gradients and assayed for contained lactoferrin, myeloperoxidase, and acid hydrolases. The conclusions drawn from the biochemical and morphological studies were in agreement and indicated: particle uptake and vacuole closure can be completed within 20 s; both the specific and azurophil granules fuse with the phagocytic vacuole much earlier than is generally appreciated, with half-saturation times of 39 s (99% confidence limits, 15-72); oxygen consumption has kinetics similar to those of the fusion of these granules with the phagosome; degranulation of the acid hydrolases beta-glucuronidase, N-acetyl-beta-glucosaminidase (biochemical assays), and acid phosphatase (biochemical assay and electron microscopic cytochemistry) have kinetics of degranulation that are similar to each other but totally different from and much slower than that of myeloperoxidase with half-saturation times of between 354 and 682 s (99% confidence limits, 246-883). This suggests that the acid hydrolases are not co-located with myeloperoxidase in the azurophil granule but are contained in distinct lysosomes, or "tertiary granules".

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