Mouse macrophage Fc receptors specific for IgG1/IgG2b mediate the binding and pinocytic uptake of soluble IgG-containing antibody-antigen complexes. Internalization of these multivalent IgG complexes is accompanied not only by the intracellular degradation of the ligand, but also by a net decrease in the number of plasma membrane Fc receptors and an accelerated rate of receptor turnover. In contrast, internalized receptors bound to a monovalent ligand, the high affinity Fab fragment of the antireceptor mAb 2.4G2, escape degradation by rapidly recycling to the cell surface. In this paper, we have characterized the intracellular pathway involved in the endocytosis and transport of Fc receptors in the J774 macrophage cell line. The results show that the uptake of multivalent ligands follows the normal pathway of receptor-mediated endocytosis: internalization in clathrin-coated pits and coated vesicles, delivery to endosomes, and finally to acid hydrolase-rich lysosomes. Immunoprecipitation of radiolabeled receptor from Percoll density gradients showed that endocytosis of the IgG complexes also results in the concomitant transport of the receptor to lysosomes. Although uptake of the monovalent Fab fragment had no detectable effect on intracellular receptor distribution, preparations of 2.4G2 Fab rendered multivalent by adsorption to colloidal gold were as effective as the IgG complexes at causing lysosomal accumulation of internalized receptors. Thus, it is likely that the down-regulation and degradation of Fc receptors which occurs during the endocytosis of antibody-antigen complexes is due to the transport of internalized receptors to lysosomes. Moreover, the ability of certain Fc receptor-bound ligands to interfere with receptor recycling and trigger lysosomal transport seems to depend on ligand valency rather than on the presence or absence of Fc domains on intact IgG molecules.

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