The process of receptor-mediated endocytosis is common to a variety of species and cell types. One of the best characterized receptor-ligand systems is the hepatocyte receptor for asialoglycoproteins. We investigated the morphological features of the uptake and intracellular transport of gold-conjugated asialofetuin in isolated rat hepatocyte couplets. We assessed the effects of colchicine, lumicolchicine, cytochalasin B, and chloroquine on the uptake and intracellular transport of asialoglycoproteins. Isolated rat hepatocyte couplets were incubated with gold-conjugated asialofetuin, and transmission electron micrographs of these cells were analyzed to determine the density and distribution of gold particles in the peripheral and pericanalicular areas. Results were analyzed morphometrically. Colchicine significantly inhibited the uptake and intracellular transport of asialoglycoproteins, but did not affect membrane fusion of endocytic compartments in the peripheral area. Lumicolchicine and cytochalasin B had minimal effects on these processes. Chloroquine inhibited the uptake of asialoglycoproteins, but did not affect the intracellular transport of asialoglycoproteins. Results suggest that the microtubule is essential for intracellular movement of endocytosed asialoglycoproteins and receptor recycling, and that endocytic structures in the peripheral regions can fuse in the absence of intact microtubules. We also found that uptake and intracellular transport of asialoglycoproteins were independent of the microfilaments, and the pH gradient in endocytic compartments was important in receptor-mediated endocytosis of asialoglycoproteins.
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