The weak base ammonium chloride has been previously reported to inhibit lysosomal movements and phagosome-lysosome (Ph-L) fusion in cultured mouse macrophages (M phi), thus reducing delivery, to an intraphagosomal infection, of endocytosed solutes that have concentrated in secondary lysosomes. We have now addressed the question, whether NH4Cl might affect any direct interaction (if it exists) between such infection phagosomes and earlier, nonlysosomal compartments of the endocytic pathway, i.e., solute-containing endosomes. The phagosomes studied were formed after ingestion of the mouse pathogen Mycobacterium microti and the nonpathogenic yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae; and the endosomes were formed after nonreceptor-mediated endocytosis of electronopaque and fluorescent soluble markers. By electron microscopy, survey of the cell profiles of M phi that had been treated with 10 mM NH4Cl so that Ph-L fusion was prevented, and that displayed many ferritin-labeled endosomes, revealed numerous examples of the fusion of electronlucent endosomes, revealed numerous examples of the fusion of electronlucent vesicles with phagosomes, whether containing M. microti bacilli or S. cerevisiae yeasts. Fusion was recognized by transfer of label and by morphological evidence of fusion in progress. The fusing vesicles were classed as endosomes, not NH4Cl-lysosomes, by their appearance and provenance, and because lysosome participation was excluded by the concurrent, NH4Cl-caused block of Ph-L fusion and associated lysosomal stasis. No evidence of such phagosome-endosome (Ph-E) fusion was observed in profiles from M phi treated with chloroquine, nor in those from normal, untreated M phi. NH4Cl-treated living M phi that had ingested yeasts at 37 degrees C, followed by endocytosis of lucifer yellow at 17 degrees C (to accumulate labeled endosomes and postpone label passing to lysosomes), were then restored to 37 degrees C. Fluorescence microscopy showed that as many as half of the yeast phagosomes (previously unlabeled) rapidly became colored. We inferred that this transfer was from endosomes (by Ph-E fusion) because Ph-L passage was blocked (by the NH4Cl). We conclude that NH4Cl induces Ph-E fusion at the same time as it suppressed Ph-L fusion. We discuss the mechanisms of these concurrent effects and suggest that they are independent; and we consider the implications of NH4Cl opening a direct route for endocytosed molecules to reach an intraphagosomal infection without involving lysosomes.

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