Kinetics of endosomal acidification in Dictyostelium discoideum amoebae. 31P-NMR evidence for a very acidic early endosomal compartment.

PMID 1281673


We have examined the pH of the various endosomal compartments in the amoebae of the cellular slime mould Dictyostelium discoideum. This was accomplished both by fluorescence and by in vivo 31P-NMR methods. The fluid-phase marker, fluorescein-labeled dextran, was fed to the amoebae to report the average pH of their endocytic vesicles. During the progressive loading of successive endosomal compartments, we observed an early acidification down to a minimum value of pH < or = 5.3 after 30 min at 20 degrees C followed by an increase to an average pH of 5.8 when all the endosomal compartments were loaded by the fluid-phase marker. The weak fluorescence intensity of FITC-dextran at acidic pH precluded a more detailed investigation and we checked various phosphonate compounds as potential 31P-NMR pH probes for the endosomal compartments. Two molecules, aminomethylphosphonate and 2-aminoethylphosphonate, were selected for this study because of the large amplitudes of their chemical shift variation with pH (2 and 2.5 ppm, respectively) and their acidic pKs of 5.5 and 6.3, respectively. They were only moderately toxic (IC50% approximately 10 mM) towards both the axenic growth and the differentiation program of Dictyostelium amoebae. Internalization of the two aminophosphonates occurred only through the fluid-phase pinocytosis pathway as revealed by the full inhibition of their entry with 1 mM vanadate or 7.5 mM caffeine, two previously characterized inhibitors of endocytosis in Dictyostelium. We found that in vivo 31P-NMR of amoebae suspensions incubated with the aminophosphonates allowed the detection of three distinct intracellular compartments at pH 4.3, 5.8-6.0 and 7.3. Kinetics of aminophosphonate entry were analyzed and the results allowed us to reconstruct the time course for the acidification sequence during endocytosis. The data are consistent with the hypothesis that in Dictyostelium amoebae phosphonates occupy a highly acidic early endosomal compartment (t1/2 = 18 min; pH 4.3) before reaching a less acidic late endosomal/prelysosomal compartment (pH 5.8-6.0) from where they are immediately transported to, and trapped in, the cytoplasm (pH 7.3).