The endocytotic pathway is profoundly altered by the UVA-induced photosensitization of HS 68 fibroblasts by the fluoroquinolone (FQ) antibiotics lomefloxacin, BAYy 3118, norfloxacin and ciprofloxacin, which preferentially localize in lysosomes. The endocytosis of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) loaded with two carbocyanine dyes compatible for effective Forster-type resonance energy transfer (FRET), namely 3,3'-dioctadecyloxacarbocyanine perchlorate (DiO) as the donor and 1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate (DiI) as the acceptor, has been used as a model system. Binding of LDL to their cell surface receptors is impaired by irradiation with 10 J cm(-2) of UVA and/or treatment with 250 microM BAYy 3118 during 2 h. Perturbation of the plasma membrane by the FQ is revealed by the change in the rate of exchange of DiO from the LDL to the cell membrane as compared to untreated cells. The lysosomal degradation of LDL, demonstrated by the disappearance of FRET between DiO and DiI, is partly inhibited by the FQ. The actin filament network, involved in the fusion of mature endosomes with lysosomes, is readily destroyed upon photosensitization with the four FQ. However, actin depolymerization can be avoided by incubation of the cells with trans-epoxysuccinyl-1-leucylamido-(4-guanidino)butane, an inhibitor of lysosomal cathepsins prior to FQ photosensitization. All these data suggest that several components of the endocytotic pathway are impaired by photosensitization with these FQ.