Quantification of low density lipoprotein and transferrin endocytic sorting in HEp2 cells using confocal microscopy
Numerous experiments on CHO cells have shown that endosomes are composed of separate vesicular and tubulovesicular compartments, such as the sorting endosome, the recycling compartment, and the late endosome. However, Hopkins et al. (Nature 346, 335-339, 1990) have reported that endosomes in HEp2 human carcinoma cells form an extensive tubular reticulum. To resolve their observations with previous results from CHO and other cells, we examined the sorting and intracellular transport of endocytosed macromolecules in HEp2 cells, using low density lipoprotein (LDL) and transferrin (Tf) to probe the lysosomally directed and recycling pathways, respectively. Fluorescent LDL and Tf were observed with laser scanning confocal microscopy to visualize simultaneously both probes' sorting and subsequent post-sorting behavior in HEp2 cells. Quantifying the 3-dimensional cellular distributions of fluorescent LDL and Tf, after a variety of pulsechase schemes, gave the ligands' trafficking rates. Initially, both ligands appear in the same punctate sorting endosomes, and fingers of Tf start extending from these sorting endosomes. Tf rapidly leaves dual-labeled sorting endosomes (t1/2 approximately 2.5 minutes) and enters a post-sorting recycling compartment from which it is recycled out of the cell (t1/2 approximately 7 minutes). We present both morphological and kinetic data supporting the existence of these two separate compartments along the recycling pathway in HEp2 cells. LDL remains in punctate sorting endosomes that eventually lose the ability to receive newly endocytosed LDL, and mature into late endosomes. The trafficking and sorting of Tf and LDL in HEp2 cells follow the same general scheme as in CHO cells, indicating that the tubular endosomes previously seen may be the tubular parts of the sorting endosomes and recycling compartments in these cells. We propose that the endosomes in the recycling pathway of HEp2 cells, as in CHO cells, are composed of short-lived sorting endosomes, accessible to both Tf and LDL, and long-lived post-sorting recycling compartments, which contain Tf and recycling receptors but not LDL.