We have employed the method of Burwen and Satir (J. Cell Biol., 1977, 74:690) to measure the disappearance of surface folds from resident guinea pig peritoneal macrophages after antibody-dependent phagocytosis. Unilamellar phospholipid vesicles containing dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine and 1 mol % dinitrophenyl-epsilon-aminocaproyl-phosphatidylethanolamine, a lipid that possesses a hapten headgroup, were prepared by an ether injection technique. These vesicles were taken up by macrophages in a time- and temperature-dependent fashion. Vesicles that contained ferritin trapped in the internal aqueous volume were identified within macrophages by transmission electron microscopy. Scanning electron microscopy has shown that macrophage surface folds decrease dramatically after phagocytosis. The surface fold length (micrometer) per unit smooth sphere surface area (micrometer2) decreases from 1.3 +/- 0.3 micrometer-1 to 0.53 +/- 0.25 micrometer-1 when cells are incubated in the presence of specific anti-DNP antibody and vesicles at 37 degrees C. No significant effect was observed in the presence of antibody only or vesicles only. Our studies shown that phagocytosis is associated with a loss of cell surface folds and a loss of cell surface area, which is consonant with current views of the endocytic process. On the basis of our uptake data, we estimate that approximately 400 micrometer2 of vesicle surface membrane is internalized. The guinea pig macrophage plasma membrane has a total area of approximately 400 micrometer2 in control studies, whereas the cells have roughly 300 micrometer2 after phagocytosis. These estimates of surface areas include membrane ruffles and changes directly related to changes in cell volume. We suggest that during antibody-dependent phagocytosis a membrane reservoir is made available to the cell surface.

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