In differentiating 3T3-L1 cells, lipid spheres, the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), microperoxisomes, and mitochondria form "constellations" that may reflect the interplay of lipid metabolizing enzymes in these organelles. ER cisternae are also situated very close to "rosettes,"plasmalemmal specializations found in mature adipocytes in vivo. As in hepatocytes and absorptive cells of the intestine, this spatial relationship of ER and plasmalemma suggests a role for rosettes in the uptake of exogenous lipid precursors. The morphological differentiation of 3T3-L1 preadipocytes includes the loss of "stress fibers" and the appearance of microfilament like structures that encase, in a complex manner, the cytosolic lipid spheres that appear during differentiation. Other features described for the first time in 3T3-L1 preadipocytes include: (a) the presence of an extensive acid phosphatase (AcPase) positive GERL from which coated vesicles apparently arise (these coated vesicles display AcPase activity and are much smaller and far more numerous than the coated vesicles that seem to arise from the plasmalemmal coated pits); (b) the abundance of AcPase-positive autophagic vacuoles; and (c) a high level of alpha-naphthyl-acetate-esterase activity which, by light microscopy cytochemistry, appears to be localized in the cytosol.

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