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J Exp Med. 1983 Aug 1;158(2):477-92.

Chemical inhibitors of phagosome-lysosome fusion in cultured macrophages also inhibit saltatory lysosomal movements. A combined microscopic and computer study.


The effects on lysosomal movements produced by the weak base ammonium chloride and by a representative polyanion poly-D-glutamic acid (PGA), previously reported to inhibit phagosome-lysosome (P-L) fusion, have been studied in cultured mouse macrophages using direct visual phase-contrast microscopy, a previously described (1, 3, 7) fluorescence assay of fusion, and computer analysis techniques. Treatment of the macrophages with 5-10 mM NH4Cl for 0.5-2 h or with 100 micrograms PGA/ml for 5 d caused a striking inhibition of saltatory lysosomal movements, as well as the expected inhibition of P-L fusion. Two other anionic fusion inhibitors tested, dextran sulphate and suramin, inhibited movements similarly. Removal of the NH4Cl from the cell medium reversed the lysosomal stasis and restored P-L fusion. Computer analyses of changes in lysosomal positions in treated and untreated macrophages during 2, 10, and 30-s intervals, using data from photomicrographs, computer graphics, and quantitative nearest-neighbour techniques developed for this purpose, supported the qualitative visual observation of the inhibition of lysosomal movements by the fusion inhibitors NH4Cl and PGA. Over the chosen intervals, from 80 to 96% of the lysosomes could be paired within 1 micron of each other in the NH4Cl- and PGA-treated cells in comparison with 50-70% in normal cells. The differences between the drug-treated and normal cells were highly significant. In an analogous system, the lysosomal stasis induced by hypertonic sucrose was examined and it was observed that P-L fusion too was inhibited. Both effects were reversible. We conclude that inhibition of P-L fusion and of lysosomal movement are associated. We suggest a causal relationship between these changes, namely, that the lysosomotropic inhibitors of fusion under study produce their effects largely, though perhaps not exclusively, by reducing saltatory lysosomal motion and consequently periphagosomal assembly, rather than directly and independently on P-L contact or on the fusion process itself. The possibility is raised that microtubules may be involved in the effector mechanism of these modulations.

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