Rat hepatocytes in monolayer culture rapidly internalized asialoglycoproteins and the receptors to which they are bound. Subsequent to endocytosis, the receptor-ligand complex is dissociated within an acidic endosome (Harford, J., K. Bridges, G. Ashwell, and R. D. Klausner, 1983, J. Biol. Chem. 258:3191-3197; Harford, J., A. W. Wolkoff, G. Ashwell, and R. D. Klausner, 1983, J. Cell Biol. 96:1824-1828). Here we show that addition of the proton ionophore monensin to the cells after dissociation has occurred results in intracellular rebinding of ligand molecules. With increasing time inside the cell, the ability of ligand to reassociate with receptor progressively decreases consistent with a segregation of receptor and ligand. The combination of colchicine and cytochalasin B appears to retard the process of segregation. In contrast, removal of sodium from the medium, while inhibiting degradation of ligand, does not affect the decrease in monensin-mediated rebinding. Nonetheless, both sodium deprivation and treatment with colchicine plus cytochalasin B result in the ligand remaining in a low density, nonlysosomal subcellular fraction. Thus, segregation, like dissociation, appears to occur in a pre-lysosomal endocytic compartment. Perturbation of the endocytic pathway by reduced temperature (18 degrees C) was also explored. Our data are consistent with two temperature-sensitive steps: receptor-ligand dissociation is inhibited and there is an independent temperature-sensitive step involved in delivery of ligand to lysosomes. This second effect was localized as being beyond the point in the pathway sensitive to sodium deprivation.

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