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Exp Cell Res. 1986 Aug;165(2):494-506.

Endocytosis via galactose receptors in vivo. Ligand size directs uptake by hepatocytes and/or liver macrophages.


We followed the intrahepatic binding and uptake of variously sized ligands with terminal galactosyl residues in rat livers. The ligands were administered to prefixed livers in binding studies and in vivo and in situ (serum-free perfused livers) in uptake studies. Gold sols with different particle diameters were prepared: 5 nm (Au5), 17 nm (Au17), 50 nm (Au50) and coated with galactose exposing glycoproteins (asialofetuin (ASF) or lactosylated BSA (LacBSA)). Electron microscopy of mildly prefixed livers perfused with LacBSA-Au5 in serum-free medium showed ligand binding to liver macrophages, hepatocytes and endothelial cells. Ligands bound to prefixed cell surfaces reflect the initial distribution of receptor activity: pre-aggregated clusters of ligands are found on liver macrophages, single particles statistically distributed on hepatocytes and pre-aggregated clusters of particles restricted to coated pits on endothelial cells. Ligand binding is prevented in the presence of 80 mM N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc), while N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) is without effect. Electron microscopy of livers after ligand injection into the tail vein shows that in vivo uptake of electron-dense galactose particles by liver cells is size-dependent. Using a LacBSA-Au preparation with heterogeneous particle diameter (2.2-11.7 nm) we found that hepatocytes take up only ligands up to the size of 7.8 nm, whereas particles of all sizes available in this experiment are found in liver macrophages and endothelial cells. ASF-Au17 and LacBSA-Au17 are endocytosed by liver macrophages and endothelial cells, but not by hepatocytes. ASF-Au50 is taken up by liver macrophages only. In vivo uptake by liver macrophages is mediated by galactose-specific recognition as shown by inhibition with GalNAc. Some 52-65% inhibition was measured in in vivo experiments and 78% inhibition in in situ experiments. GlNAc showed no inhibitory effect. Furthermore, we measured uptake of [125J]ASF and of [125J]ASF adsorbed to Au17 by the different cell populations of rat livers in vivo. While the bulk of the molecular ligand is found in the hepatocyte fraction, the particulate ligand is located in the sinusoidal fraction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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