Effects of silica, diamond dust, and carrageenan on mouse macrophages were studied by phase-contrast cine-micrography, electron microscopy, histochemical techniques for lysosomal enzymes and measurements of the release of lysosomal enzymes into the culture medium.

All added materials were rapidly taken up into phagosomes, to which lysosomes became attached. In all cases lysosomal enzymes were discharged into the phagosomes to form secondary lysosomes. Within 24 hr most of the silica particles and enzyme had escaped from the secondary lysosomes and lysosomal enzymes were found in the culture media. Most macrophages were killed by this time. With nontoxic particles (diamond dust, aluminium-coated silica, or silica in the presence of the protective agent polyvinyl-pyridine-N-oxide, PVPNO) ingested particles and lysosomal enzymes were retained within the secondary lysosomes for a much longer time, and cytotoxic effects were considerably delayed or absent altogether.

It is concluded that silica particles are toxic because they are efficiently taken up by macrophages and can then react relatively rapidly with the membranes surrounding the secondary lysosomes. The particles and lytic enzymes can then escape into the cytoplasm, producing general damage, and thence into the culture medium. It is suggested that hydrogen bonding of silicic acid with lipid and protein constituents of the membrane accounts for the induced permeability. Protective agents such as PVPNO are retamed in lysosomes and preferentially form hydrogen bonds with silicic acid.

Carrageenan is demonstrable within macrophages by its metachromatic reaction. It brings about release of enzymes from secondary lysosomes, but much more slowly than does silica. Silica released from killed macrophages is as cytotoxic as the original preparation. It is suggested that repeated cycles of macrophage killing in vivo leads to the mobilization of fibroblasts and fibrogenesis characterizing the disease silicosis.

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