In this paper we report on the uptake and distribution of an exogenously supplied fluorescent phosphatidic acid analogue by Chinese hamster fibroblasts. Under appropriate in vitro incubation conditions, 1-acyl-2-(N-4-nitrobenzo-2-oxa-1,3-diazole)-aminocaproyl phosphatidic acid was rapidly and preferentially transferred from phospholipid vesicles to cells at 2 degrees C. However, unlike similar fluorescent derivatives of phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine that remain restricted to the plasma membrane under such incubation conditions (Struck, D. K., and R. E. Pagano. 1080. J. Biol. Chem. 255:5405--5410), most of the phosphatidic acid-derived fluorescence was localized at the nuclear membrane, endoplasmic reticulum, and mitochondria. This was shown by labeling cells with rhodamine-containing probes specific for mitochondria or endoplasmic reticulum, and comparing the patterns of intracellular NBD and rhodamine fluorescence. Extraction and analysis of the fluorescent lipids associated with the cells after treatment with vesicles at 2 degrees or 37 degrees C revealed that a large fraction of the fluorescent phosphatidic acid was converted to fluorescent diglyceride, phosphatidylcholine, and triglyceride. Our findings suggest that fluorescent phosphatidic acid may be useful in correlating biochemical studies of lipid metabolism in cultured cells and studies of the Intracellular localization of the metabolites by fluorescence microscopy. In addition, this compound provides a unique method for visualizing the endoplasmic reticulum in living cells.

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