Acidification of endocytic compartments and the intracellular pathways of ligands and receptors
Receptors, Cell Surface
Several hormones, serum proteins, toxins, and viruses are brought into the cell by receptor-mediated endocytosis. Initially, many of these molecules and particles are internalized into a common endocytic compartment via the clathrin-coated pit pathway. Subsequently, the ligands and receptors are routed to several destinations, including lysosomes, the cytosol, or the plasma membrane. We have examined the mechanism by which sorting of internalized molecules occurs. A key step in the process is the rapid acidification of endocytic vesicles to a pH of 5.0-5.5 This acidification allows dissociation of several ligands from their receptors, the release of iron from transferrin, and the penetration of diphtheria toxin and some viral nucleocapsids into the cytoplasm. Transferrin, a ligand that cycles through the cell with its receptor, has been used as a marker for the recycling receptor pathway. We have found that in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells transferrin is rapidly segregated from other ligands and is routed to a complex of small vesicles and/or tubules near the Golgi apparatus. The pH of the transferrin-containing compartment is approximately 6.4, indicating that it is not in continuity with the more acidic endocytic vesicles which contain ligands destined to be degraded in lysosomes.