Changes in yolk platelet pH during Xenopus laevis development correlate with yolk utilization: A quantitative confocal microscopy study
The variations of the pH in Xenopus yolk platelets have been estimated by fluorescence confocal microscopy and computer image processing. For pH measurements in vitellogenic oocytes, the pH-sensitive fluorescent dye, DM-NERF, was coupled to vitellogenin, and the DM-NERF-vitellogenin was taken up by oocytes via receptor-mediated endocytosis. Dual emission ratio measurements of internalized DM-NERF-vitellogenin indicated that the mature yolk platelets are mildly acidic (pH 5.6). Their precursors, the primordial yolk platelets, have a similar pH. This pH is probably sufficiently low for the partial cleavage of vitellogenin to yolk proteins, but not for yolk degradation. The yolk platelet pH at various developmental stages was estimated by measuring the accumulation of Acridine Orange, both in isolated yolk platelets and in disaggregated embryonic cells. During oogenesis, the yolk platelets accumulated a constant amount of Acridine Orange, corresponding to a pH of around 5.7. During embryogenesis, however, yolk platelets became progressively much more acidic (pH < 5). Acidification correlated with yolk degradation in the various tissues examined, and yolk utilization was blocked when acidification was inhibited with bafilomycin, an inhibitor of vacuolar H+-ATPase. Bafilomycin also inhibited differentiation of cells isolated from stage 13-15 embryos. These data show that the yolk platelet pH is developmentally regulated and is involved in triggering yolk degradation. Also, yolk acidification and degradation appeared to be associated with cell differentiation and with the formation of the endosomal/lysosomal compartment, typical of adult cells, but absent in early embryos.