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Biophys J. 1991 Jun;59(6):1208-17.

Heterogeneity in ATP-dependent acidification in endocytic vesicles from kidney proximal tubule. Measurement of pH in individual endocytic vesicles in a cell-free system.

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Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0532.


Measurement of membrane transport in suspensions of isolated membrane vesicles provides averaged information over a potentially very heterogeneous vesicle population. To examine the regulatory mechanisms for ATP-dependent acidification, methodology was developed to measure pH in individual endocytic vesicles. Endocytic vesicles from proximal tubule apical membrane of rat kidney were labeled in vivo by intravenous infusion of FITC-dextran (9 kD); a microsomal fraction was obtained from dissected renal cortex by homogenization and differential centrifugation. Vesicles were immobilized on a polylysine coated coverglass and imaged at high magnification by a silicon intensified target camera. ATP-dependent acidification was not influenced by endosome immobilization. Endosome pH was determined from the integrated fluorescence intensity of individual labeled vesicles after background subtraction. Calibration studies with high K and nigericin showed nearly identical fluorescence vs. pH curves for different endosomes with a standard deviation for a single pH measurement in a single endosome of approximately 0.2 pH units. In response to addition of 1 mM MgATP in the presence of K and valinomycin, endosome pH decreased from 7.2 to a mean of 6.4 with a unimodal distribution with width at half-maximum of approximately 1 pH unit. The drop in endosome pH increased and the shape of the distribution changed when the time between FITC-dextran infusion and kidney removal was increased from 5 to 20 min. Differences in ATP-dependent acidification could not be attributed to heterogeneity in passive proton conductance. These results establish a direct method to measure pH in single endocytic vesicles and demonstrate remarkable heterogeneity in ATP-dependent acidification which was interpreted in terms of heterogeneity in the number and/or activity of proton pumps at serial stages of endocytosis.

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