We used a morphometric and autoradiographic approach to analyze changes in specific cytoplasmic granules and cytoplasmic lipid bodies associated with human lung mast cell degranulation. Mast cells were dissociated from lung tissue by enzymatic digestion and were then enriched to purities of up to 99% by countercurrent centrifugation elutriation and recovery from columns containing specific antigen bound to Sepharose 6 MB. Degranulation was induced by goat anti-IgE. At various intervals after stimulation, parallel aliquots of cells were recovered for determination of histamine release or were fixed for transmission electron microscopy. We found that lipid bodies, electron-dense structures that lack unit membranes, were present in both control and stimulated mast cells. Autoradiographic analysis showed that lipid bodies represented the major repository of 3H-label derived from [3H]arachidonic acid taken up from the external milieu. By contrast, the specific cytoplasmic granules contained no detectable 3H-label. In addition, lipid bodies occurred in intimate association with degranulation channels during mast cell activation, but the total volume of lipid bodies did not change during the 20 min after stimulation with anti-IgE. This result stands in striking contrast to the behavior of specific cytoplasmic granules, the great majority of which (77% according to aggregate volume) exhibited ultrastructural alterations during the first 20 min of mast cell activation. These observations establish that mast cell cytoplasmic granules and cytoplasmic lipid bodies are distinct organelles that differ in ultrastructure, biochemistry, and behavior during mast cell activation.

This content is only available as a PDF.