Horseradish peroxidase (HRP), an enzyme internalized by fluid phase pinocytosis, has been used to study the process by which pinosome contents are delivered to lysosomes in Chinese hamster ovary cells. Pinosome contents were labeled by allowing cells to internalize HRP for 3-5 min. Following various chase times, cells were either processed for HRP and acid phosphatase (AcPase) cytochemistry or homogenized and fractionated in Percoll gradients. In Percoll gradients, pinosomes labeled by a 3-5 min HRP pulse behaved as a vesicle population more dense than plasma membrane and less dense than lysosomes. In pulse-chase experiments, internalized HRP was chased rapidly (3-6 min chase) to a density position intermediate between the "initial" pinocytic vesicle population and lysosomes. With longer chase periods, a progressive accumulation of HRP in more dense vesicles was observed. Correspondence between the HRP distribution and lysosomal marker distribution was reached after a approximately 1-h chase. By electron microscope cytochemistry of intact cells, the predominant class of HRP-positive vesicles after pulse uptakes or a 3-min chase period was characterized by a peripheral rim of reaction product and was AcPase negative. After 10-120-min chase periods, the predominant class of HRP-positive vesicles was characterized by luminal deposits and HRP activity was frequently observed in multivesicular bodies. HRP-positive vesicles after a 10- or 30-min chase were AcPase-positive. No HRP activity was detected in Golgi apparatus. Together these observations indicate that progressive processing of vesicular components of the vacuolar apparatus occurs at both a prelysosomal and lysosomal stage.

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