Rabbit neutrophils, exposed either to partially purified human C5a or to formylmethionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine in the presence of 5 micrograms ml-1 cytochalasin B underwent a rapid, compound exocytosis. The pattern of granule fusion, as visualized in freeze-fracture replicas, differed depending on the source of messenger calcium. In the presence of extracellular calcium, a linearly directed pattern, consisting of finger-like invaginations converging at the cell centre, was prominent at 10–20 s after stimulation. After stimulation for 20–40 s, further fusion of granule membranes created extremely convoluted surfaces, some consisting of up to a dozen granule membranes connected by narrow pores or flat ribbons of membrane. In many cells the peripheral cytoplasm was constricted to form lobes or finger-like protrusions. Neutrophils stimulated in the absence of extracellular calcium exhibited granule fusion in the directed pattern, with only occasional involvement of the convoluted patterns seen when calcium is present. In contrast, neutrophils depleted of intracellular calcium before stimulation (and thereby forced to use extracellular calcium for triggering secretion) exhibited the convoluted pattern of granule fusion almost exclusively. These results suggest that the directed pattern of fusion is initiated by release of intracellular calcium or a calcium-independent pathway and that the non-directed, convoluted pattern of fusion is initiated by entry of extracellular calcium.

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