Cytotoxic activity of culture supernates of is manifested by vacuolation of mammalian cells The formation and maturation of toxin-induced vacuoles in HeLa cells has been studied to examine the possibility that they are autophagosomal in nature. Observation by light microscopy revealed that vacuoles originate in a perinuclear position, increasing in number and size until cell degeneration and lysis occur after 48 h. Ultrastructural study of mature vacuoles indicated the presence of a bounding membrane with contents consisting of degenerate cytoplasmic components and acid phosphatase activity. Confocal fluorescence imaging demonstrated acridine orange accumulation in the vacuoles of toxin-treated cells, indicating an acidic intravacuolar pH. These features are characteristic of autophagosomes. In addition, the size of vacuoles in living, acridine orange-stained cells tended to be inversely proportional to fluorescence intensity. Fluid phase endocytic markers were observed only rarely within nascent vacuoles. Over the succeeding 24 h, labelling of most vacuoles with these dyes was observed. This, along with the observation of intravacuolar acid phosphatase activity, provides evidence that vacuoles communicate at some point during their development with endocytically derived compartments. These observations provide direct evidence for an autophagic origin of these structures.


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