In isolated rat hepatocytes, a radiolabelled tyramine-cellobiose conjugate of asialo-orosomucoid, 125I-TC-AOM, was rapidly taken up by receptor-mediated endocytosis and proteolytically degraded in the lysosomes, where radioactive degradation products accumulated. Okadaic acid and other protein phosphatase inhibitors (microcystin-LR, calyculin A) strongly reduced the fraction of asialoglycoprotein (ASGP) receptors localized to the cell surface, and correspondingly inhibited the uptake of 125I-TC-AOM. In addition, the inhibitors suppressed 125I-TC-AOM degradation strongly (90% at 150 nM) and potently (half-maximal effect at 20 nM okadaic acid), indicating an involvement of protein phosphorylation, and of a protein phosphatase of type 2A, in the regulation of intracellular endocytic flux. The effects of okadaic acid on 125I-TC-AOM accumulation, as well as on degradation, could be eliminated by the protein kinase inhibitor genistein. Okadaic acid prevented the transfer of 125I-TC-AOM to a non-recycling endocytic compartment, causing its retention in a recycling compartment from which about one-third of the endocytosed 125I-TC-AOM could be returned to the cell surface and detached from its receptor in the presence of EGTA. ASGP receptors recycled extensively both in the presence and absence of okadaic acid, as indicated by a sustained uptake of 125I-TC-AOM. Sucrose density gradient analysis and sedimentation studies indicated that okadaic acid caused accumulation of 125I-TC-AOM in light endosomes (1.11 g/ml), preventing its transfer to dense endosomes (1.14 g/ml) and lysosomes (1.18 g/ml). The lysosomes could be identified in density gradients by their contents of lysosomal marker enzymes and acid-soluble radioactivity, and by their sensitivity towards the lysosome-disrupting agent glycyl-L-phenylalanine-2-naphthylamide. By using endocytosed AOM-gold particles as an ultrastructural endocytic marker, it could be shown that the light endosomes accumulating ASGP in the presence of okadaic acid had the morphological appearance of small endocytic vesicles/tubules and multivesicular endosomes. Whereas in control cells 4% of the AOM-gold was in small vesicles/tubules, 55% in multivesicular endosomes and 41% in lysosomes, the corresponding figures for okadaic acid-treated cells were 17%, 73% and 11%. Our results thus indicate that protein phosphatase inhibitors have two effects on ASGP endocytosis: (1) an early inhibition of ligand uptake, due to a reduction in the fraction of ASGP receptors at the cell surface, and (2) an inhibition of ASGP transfer from a recycling compartment consisting of light, small endocytic vesicles and multivesicular endosomes, to a non-recycling compartment consisting of dense multivesicular endosomes.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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