We recently confirmed the existence of gelatinase granules as a subpopulation of peroxidase-negative granules by double-labeling immunogold electron microscopy on intact cells and by subcellular fractionation. Further characterization of gelatinase granules has been hampered by poor separation of specific and gelatinase granules on both two-layer Percoll gradients and sucrose gradients. We have developed a three-layer Percoll density gradient that allows separation of the different granules and vesicles from human neutrophils; in particular, it allows separation of specific and gelatinase granules. This allows us to characterize these two granule populations with regard to their content of membrane proteins, which become incorporated into the plasma membrane during exocytosis. We found that gelatinase granules, defined as peroxidase-negative granules containing gelatinase but lacking lactoferrin, contain 50% of total cell gelatinase, with the remaining residing in specific granules. Furthermore, we found that 20% to 25% of both the adhesion protein Mac-1 and the NADPH-oxidase component cytochrome b558 is localized in gelatinase granules. Although no qualitative difference was observed between specific granules and gelatinase granules with respect to cytochrome b558 and Mac-1, stimulation of the neutrophil with FMLP resulted in a selective mobilization of the least dense peroxidase-negative granules, ie, gelatinase granules, which, in concert with secretory vesicles, furnish the plasma membrane with Mac-1 and cytochrome b558. This shows that gelatinase granules are functionally important relative to specific granules in mediating early inflammatory responses.

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