Different cell types have been reported to internalize lactoferrin (Lf) by specific or nonspecific receptors. Our studies focused on the endocytic pathway of human Lf in macrophage-like THP-1 cells. Lactoferrin was found to be internalized by THP-1 cells differentiated with phorbol myristate acetate. Incubation of cells with chlorpromazine and dansylcadaverine, inhibitors of clathrin-dependent endocytosis, led to a 50% inhibition of Lf internalization compared with untreated cells. Bafilomycin A1 and NH(4)Cl treatment also resulted in 40%-60% inhibition, respectively, suggesting that the internalization of Lf may partly be mediated by acidic endosome-like organelles. Endocytic uptake of Lf was also cholesterol-dependent, as shown by methyl-β-cyclodextrin or nystatin treatment of the cells prior to internalization. Partial colocalization of Lf and EEA-1, a marker specific for early endosomes, could be observed. Colocalization of Lf with a specific endoplasmic reticulum marker was also detected. Our results suggest that Lf is internalized mainly by the clathrin-dependent pathway in THP-1 cells and targets the ER. The physiological consequences of this intracellular trafficking will be the subject of future investigations.