It has been shown that endocytic vesicles in BALB/c 3T3 cells have a pH of 5.0 (Tycko and Maxfield, Cell, 28:643-651). In this paper, a method for measuring the effect of various agents, including weak bases and ionophores, on the pH of endocytic vesicles is presented. The method is based on the increase in fluorescein fluorescence with 490-nm excitation as the pH is raised above 5.0. Intensities of cells were measured using a microscope spectrofluorometer after internalization of fluorescein-labeled alpha 2-macroglobulin by receptor-mediated endocytosis. The increase in endocytic vesicle pH was determined from the increase in fluorescence after addition of various concentrations of the test agents. The following agents increased endocytic vesicle pH above 6.0 at the indicated concentrations: monensin (6 microM), FCCP (10 microM), chloroquine (140 microM), ammonia (5 mM), methylamine (10 mM). The ability of many of these agents to raise endocytic vesicle pH may account for many of their effects on receptor-mediated endocytosis. Dansylcadaverine caused no effect on vesicle pH at 1 mM. The observed increases in vesicle pH were rapid (1-2 min) and could be reversed by removal of the perturbant. This reversibility indicates that the vesicles themselves contain a mechanism for acidification. The increase in vesicle pH due to these treatments can be observed visually using an SIT video camera. Using this method, it is shown that endocytic vesicles become acidic at very early times (i.e., within 5-7 min of continuous uptake at 37 degrees C).

This content is only available as a PDF.