Supramaximal caerulein stimulation and ultrastructure of rat pancreatic acinar cell: early morphological changes during development of experimental pancreatitis.

O. Watanabe, F. M. Baccino, M. L. Steer, J. Meldolesi

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Rats infused with a supramaximally stimulating dose of the cholecystokinin-pancreozymin analogue caerulein develop acute interstitial pancreatitis (M. Lampel and H.F. Kern. Virchows Arch. A 373: 97-117, 1977). We have studied the early (30-180 min) morphological changes in pancreatic acinar cells induced by infusing caerulein (2.5 micrograms X kg-1 X h-1). The techniques of thin-section electron microscopy, freeze fracture, and enzyme and immunocytochemistry were employed. Shortly (30 min) after the onset of caerulein infusion, large vacuoles appeared in the Golgi area. After longer periods of infusion, these vacuoles further enlarged (probably by fusion with other such vacuoles as well as autophagic vacuoles) and became more widely distributed in the cytoplasm. These large vacuoles were found to be acid phosphatase positive and to be labeled by antibodies directed against digestive zymogens as well as the lysosomal enzyme cathepsin D. These observations indicate that the large vacuoles contain both digestive zymogens and lysosomal hydrolases. During caerulein infusion, morphological evidence of exocytosis at the luminal plasmalemma was reduced or absent, and evidence of basolateral exocytosis was not noted. These studies suggest that secretagogue hyperstimulation with caerulein interferes with the processes involved in condensing vacuole maturation, which normally lead to the separation of digestive zymogens and lysosomal hydrolases. As a result, both types of enzymes remain within the same compartment. This may lead to the intracellular activation of digestive enzymes by lysosomal hydrolases and be an important step in the development of acute pancreatitis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe American journal of physiology
Issue number4 Pt 1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1984


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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