Recycling Compartments and the Internal Vesicles of Multivesicular Bodies Harbor Most of the Cholesterol Found in the Endocytic Pathway


* Corresponding author: W. Möbius,


We employed our recently developed immuno-electron microscopic method (W. Möbius, Y. Ohno-Iwashita, E. G. van Donselaar, V. M. Oorschot, Y. Shimada, T. Fujimoto, H. F. Heijnen, H. J. Geuze and J. W. Slot, J Histochem Cytochem 2002; 50: 43–55) to analyze the distribution of cholesterol in the endocytic pathway of human B lymphocytes. We could distinguish 6 categories of endocytic compartments on the basis of morphology, BSA gold uptake kinetics and organelle marker analysis. Of all cholesterol detected in the endocytic pathway, we found 20% in the recycling tubulo-vesicles and 63% present in two types of multivesicular bodies. In the multivesicular bodies, most of the cholesterol was contained in the internal membrane vesicles, the precursors of exosomes secreted by B cells. Cholesterol was almost absent from lysosomes, that contained the bulk of the lipid bis(monoacylglycero)phosphate, also termed lysobisphosphatidic acid. Thus, cholesterol displays a highly differential distribution in the various membrane domains of the endocytic pathway.