• exocytosis;
  • transient fusion;
  • atomic force microscopy

Earlier studies using electron microscopy demonstrate that there is no loss of secretory vesicles following exocytosis. Depletion however, of vesicular contents resulting in the formation of empty or partially empty vesicles is seen in electron micrographs, post exocytosis, in a variety of cells. Our studies using atomic force microscopy (AFM) reveal that following stimulation of secretion, live pancreatic acinar cells having 100–180nm in diameter fusion pores located at the apical plasma membrane, dilate only 25–35% during exocytosis. Since secretory vesicles in pancreatic acinar cells range in size from 200nm to 1200nm in diameter, their total incorporation at the fusion pore, would distend the structure much more then what is observed. These earlier results prompted the current study to determine secretory vesicle dynamics in live pancreatic acinar cells following exocytosis. AFM studies on live acinar cells reveal no loss of secretory vesicle number following exocytosis. Parallel studies using electron microscopy, further confirmed our AFM results. These studies demonstrate that following stimulation of secretion, membrane-bound secretory vesicles transiently dock and fuse to release vesicular contents.