Neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) is a novel 25-kD protein of human neutrophils, that is in part covalently complexed with neutrophil gelatinase. However, both NGAL and gelatinase exist mainly in forms not associated with each other. An explanation for this phenomenon might be that the unassociated proteins reside in different subcellular compartments. The aim of the present study was to determine the subcellular localization of NGAL. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for NGAL was developed using specific anti-NGAL antibodies. The assay was applied on subcellular fractions of neutrophils obtained after centrifugation of a postnuclear supernatant on a two-layer Percoll gradient. The distribution profile of NGAL was found to colocalize strictly with the distribution profile of lactoferrin. This was confirmed by immunogold double-labeling of frozen thin sections of neutrophils that showed a high degree of colocalization of NGAL and lactoferrin, and by exocytosis experiments, which showed lactoferrin, vitamin B12-binding protein, and NGAL to be similarly released upon stimulation. Therefore, NGAL is a novel matrix protein of specific granules and thus partly segregated from gelatinase, the major part of which is located in a separate compartment, the gelatinase granules. An ELISA specific for the NGAL/gelatinase complex was developed and the subcellular distribution and release of this complex was determined. The distribution and mobilization of the complex allowed us to confirm the existence of differentially mobilized granule subpopulations among peroxidase negative granules.

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