An osmotic-protection method has been used to study the permeability of rat liver lysosomes to 43 organic non-electrolytes of formula weights ranging from 62 to 1000. A lysosome-rich centrifugal fraction of rat liver homogenate was resuspended in an unbuffered 0.25 M solution of test solute, pH 7.0, and incubated at 25 degrees C for 60 min. The free and total activities of 4-methylumbelliferyl N-acetyl-beta-D-glucosaminidase were measured after incubation for 0, 30 and 60 min. Three patterns of results were seen. In pattern A the percentage free activity remained low throughout the 60 min incubation, indicating little or no solute entry into the lysosomes. In pattern B, the percentage free activity was initially low, but rose substantially during the incubation, indicating solute entry. In pattern C there was not even initial osmotic protection, indicating very rapid solute entry. The rapidity of solute entry into the lysosomes showed no correlation with the formula weight, but a perfect inverse correlation with the hydrogen-bonding capacity of the solutes. The results, which can be used to predict the ability of further compounds to cross the lysosome membrane by unassisted diffusion, are discussed in the context of metabolite and drug release from lysosomes in vivo.

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