A combined morphological, autoradiographic, and cytochemical study at the electron microscope level has been directed towards the formation of electron-opaque granules of cultured macrophages.

Labeling of the membrane-bound vesicular structures of pinocytic origin was accomplished with colloidal gold. The initial uptake of gold occurred within micropinocytic vesicles. These electron-lucent vesicles subsequently fused with and discharged their contents into larger pinocytic vacuoles. Colloidal gold was homogeneously distributed in the large pinosomes. In contrast, gold was initially deposited in the periphery of preformed dense granules indicating that these structures were also in constant interaction with the external environment.

Colloidal gold was not observed within the cisternae of the endoplasmic reticulum nor within the saccules or vesicles of the Golgi apparatus. There were, however, many small, gold-free vesicles, indistinguishable from Golgi vesicles, which were preferentially aligned about and appeared to fuse with the large pinosomes.

The intracellular flow of leucine-H3-labeled protein was followed by electron microscopic autoradiography. After a 15 min pulse of labeled amino acid there was initial labeling of the rough endoplasmic reticulum. Subsequently, much of the label appeared in the Golgi complex. At still later time periods the cytoplasmic dense granules contained the majority of the isotope.

Acid phosphatase activity was localized to the dense granules and in the majority of cells to the Golgi apparatus.

It is suggested that hydrolytic enzymes are initially synthesized in the endoplasmic reticulum and are then transferred to the Golgi apparatus. Here they are packaged into small Golgi vesicles which represent the primary lysosome of macrophages. The Golgi vesicles subsequently fuse with pinosomes, thereby discharging their hydrolases and forming digestive granules or secondary lysosomes.

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