Amphisomes, the autophagic vacuoles (AVs) formed upon fusion between autophagosomes and endosomes, have so far only been characterized in indirect, functional terms. To enable a physical distinction between autophagosomes and amphisomes, the latter were selectively density-shifted in sucrose gradients following fusion with AOM-gold-loaded endosomes (endosomes made dense by asialoorosomucoid-conjugated gold particles, endocytosed by isolated rat hepatocytes prior to subcellular fractionation). Whereas amphisomes, by this criterion, accounted for only a minor fraction of the AVs in control hepatocytes, treatment of the cells with leupeptin (an inhibitor of lysosomal protein degradation) caused an accumulation of amphisomes to about one-half of the AV population. A quantitative electron microscopic study confirmed that leupeptin induced a severalfold increase in the number of hepatocytic amphisomes (recognized by their gold particle contents; otherwise, their ultrastructure was quite similar to autophagosomes). Leupeptin caused, furthermore, a selective retention of endocytosed AOM-gold in the amphisomes at the expense of the lysosomes, consistent with an inhibition of amphisome-lysosome fusion. The electron micrographs suggested that autophagosomes could undergo multiple independent fusions, with multivesicular (late) endosomes to form amphisomes and with small lysosomes to form large autolysosomes. A biochemical comparison between autophagosomes and amphisomes, purified by a novel procedure, showed that the amphisomes were enriched in early endosome markers (the asialoglycoprotein receptor and the early endosome-associated protein 1) as well as in a late endosome marker (the cation-independent mannose 6-phosphate receptor). Amphisomes would thus seem to be capable of receiving inputs both from early and late endosomes.