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Histochem Cell Biol. 2008 Mar;129(3):253-66. doi: 10.1007/s00418-008-0384-0. Epub 2008 Feb 15.

Imaging and imagination: understanding the endo-lysosomal system.

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Cell Microscopy Center, Department of Cell Biology, University Medical Center Utrecht, Heidelberglaan 100, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Lysosomes are specialized compartments for the degradation of endocytosed and intracellular material and essential regulators of cellular homeostasis. The importance of lysosomes is illustrated by the rapidly growing number of human disorders related to a defect in lysosomal functioning. Here, we review current insights in the mechanisms of lysosome biogenesis and protein sorting within the endo-lysosomal system. We present increasing evidence for the existence of parallel pathways for the delivery of newly synthesized lysosomal proteins directly from the trans-Golgi network (TGN) to the endo-lysosomal system. These pathways are either dependent or independent of mannose 6-phosphate receptors and likely involve multiple exits for lysosomal proteins from the TGN. In addition, we discuss the different endosomal intermediates and subdomains that are involved in sorting of endocytosed cargo. Throughout our review, we highlight some examples in the literature showing how imaging, especially electron microscopy, has made major contributions to our understanding of the endo-lysosomal system today.

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