To examine whether and how internalized plasma membrane components are routed to the compartment of the biosynthetic-exocytic pathway in cultured atrial myocytes, the plasma membrane labeled with wheat germ agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP) was traced electron microscopically by cytochemical detection of HRP. The WGA-HRP label was internalized via a coated pit-small vesicle pathway and reached vacuoles and endosomes by 3 min. Labeled endosomes comprised vacuoles and tubular elements containing reaction product. By 15 min, similar tubular structures containing reaction product accumulated in the area of the trans-Golgi network (TGN). The labeled TGN consisted of interconnected tubular elements, which often connected to atrial granules containing reaction product. In contrast, neither native HRP not Lucifer Yellow reached Golgi elements or atrial granules. These results suggest that a proportion of the plasma membrane labeled with WGA-HRP is delivered to endosomes, from which tubules might bud off to transfer the tracer molecules to the TGN, where the lectin conjugate and associated membranes are packaged into atrial granules.
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