Dissolving clathrin

Figure 2-11

Figure 2-11

Mechanism of pinocytosis.

membrane change in such a way that the entire pit invaginates inward, and the fibrillar proteins surrounding the invaginating pit cause its borders to close over the attached proteins as well as over a small amount of extracellular fluid. Immediately thereafter, the invaginated portion of the membrane breaks away from the surface of the cell, forming a pinocytotic vesicle inside the cytoplasm of the cell.

What causes the cell membrane to go through the necessary contortions to form pinocytotic vesicles remains mainly a mystery. This process requires energy from within the cell; this is supplied by ATP, a high-energy substance discussed later in the chapter. Also, it requires the presence of calcium ions in the extracellular fluid, which probably react with contractile protein filaments beneath the coated pits to provide the force for pinching the vesicles away from the cell membrane.

Phagocytosis. Phagocytosis occurs in much the same way as pinocytosis, except that it involves large particles rather than molecules. Only certain cells have the capability of phagocytosis, most notably the tissue macrophages and some of the white blood cells.

Phagocytosis is initiated when a particle such as a bacterium, a dead cell, or tissue debris binds with receptors on the surface of the phagocyte. In the case of bacteria, each bacterium usually is already attached to a specific antibody, and it is the antibody that attaches to the phagocyte receptors, dragging the bacterium along with it. This intermediation of antibodies is called opsonization, which is discussed in Chapters 33 and 34.

Phagocytosis occurs in the following steps:

1. The cell membrane receptors attach to the surface ligands of the particle.

2. The edges of the membrane around the points of attachment evaginate outward within a fraction of a second to surround the entire particle; then, progressively more and more membrane receptors attach to the particle ligands. All this occurs suddenly in a zipper-like manner to form a closed phagocytic vesicle.

3. Actin and other contractile fibrils in the cytoplasm surround the phagocytic vesicle and contract around its outer edge, pushing the vesicle to the interior.

4. The contractile proteins then pinch the stem of the vesicle so completely that the vesicle separates from the cell membrane, leaving the vesicle in the cell interior in the same way that pinocytotic vesicles are formed.

Digestion of Pinocytotic and Phagocytic Foreign Substances Inside the Cell—Function of the Lysosomes

Almost immediately after a pinocytotic or phagocytic vesicle appears inside a cell, one or more lysosomes become attached to the vesicle and empty their acid hydrolases to the inside of the vesicle, as shown in Figure 2-12. Thus, a digestive vesicle is formed inside the cell cytoplasm in which the vesicular hydrolases begin hydrolyzing the proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and other substances in the vesicle. The products of digestion are small molecules of amino acids, glucose, phosphates, and so forth that can diffuse through the membrane of the vesicle into the cytoplasm. What is left of the digestive vesicle, called the residual body, represents indigestible substances. In most instances, this is finally excreted through the cell membrane by a process called exocytosis, which is essentially the opposite of endocytosis.

Thus, the pinocytotic and phagocytic vesicles containing lysosomes can be called the digestive organs of the cells.

Regression of Tissues and Autolysis of Cells. Tissues of the body often regress to a smaller size. For instance, this

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