Secretory granules are recaptured largely intact after stimulated exocytosis in cultured endocrine cells

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Feb 18;100(4):2070-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0337526100. Epub 2003 Jan 21.


Classical cell biology teaches that exocytosis causes the membrane of exocytic vesicles to disperse into the cell surface and that a cell must later retrieve by molecular sorting whatever membrane components it wishes to keep inside. We have tested whether this view applies to secretory granules in intact PC-12 cells. Three granule proteins were labeled with fluorescent proteins in different colors, and two-color evanescent-field microscopy was used to view single granules during and after exocytosis. Whereas neuro-peptide Y was lost from granules in seconds, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) and the membrane protein phogrin remained at the granule site for over 1 min, thus providing markers for postexocytic granules. When tPA was imaged simultaneously with cyan fluorescent protein (CFP) as a cytosolic marker, the volume occupied by the granule appeared as a dark spot where it excluded CFP. The spot remained even after tPA reported exocytosis, indicating that granules failed to flatten into the cell surface. Phogrin was labeled with GFP at its luminal end and used to sense the pH in granules. When exocytosis caused the acidic granule interior to neutralize, GFP-phogrin at first brightened and later dimmed again as the interior separated from the extracellular space and reacidified. Reacidification and dimming could be reversed by application of NH(4)Cl. We conclude that most granules reseal in <10 s after releasing cargo, and that these empty or partially empty granules are recaptured otherwise intact.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Primers
  • Exocytosis*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • PC12 Cells
  • Rats
  • Secretory Vesicles / metabolism*


  • DNA Primers