Analysis by confocal microscopy has revealed features of the microtubule network of rat hepatocytes in culture, establishing the three-dimensional disposition of the microtubule-based cytoskeleton, its relation to the actin-based cytoskeleton and to ligand-containing endosomes during receptor-mediated endocytosis and the alterations in its structure and disposition by the microtubule pertubant, Taxol. By co-localization studies, we have been able to demonstrate that the microtubules have a significant role in receptor-mediated endocytosis of asialoglycoproteins in this cell. Asialoorosomucoid-containing endosomes attach to widely spaced arrays of microtubules running under the baso-lateral surface of the hepatocytes 5–15 minutes after the initiation of endocytosis and then travel along microtubule paths to become concentrated with microtubules near the centrosome and at bile canaliculi after 30–60 minutes of receptor-mediated endocytosis. Receptor-mediated endocytosis is affected, but not abolished by Taxol, which inhibits the rate of asialoorosomucoid degradation at the same concentrations as those that disrupt microtubule and cytoplasmic dynein distribution, and that prevent the concentration of endosomes centrally. The results support suggestions that asialoorosomucoid-containing endosomes are captured by microtubules just below the actin layer at the cell periphery and these are actively transported centrally along microtubules, possibly by cytoplasmic dynein, so that the concentration of endosomes near the centrosome, and the subsequent efficient lysosomal degradation of ligand, are consequences of the confluence of microtubules in this region.

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