Erythrophagosomal haemolytic degradative pathway in rat brown adipocytes induced by hyperinsulinaemia: an ultrastructural study

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The phagocytosis and degradation of erythrocytes were studied in brown adipose tissue of experimentally hyperinsulinaemic rats. We found that insulin induces intensive erythrophagocytosis by brown adipocytes and their degradation by haemolytic pathway. Ultrastuctural study revealed that haemolytic degradation of erythrophagosomes was characterized by progressive and uniform decrease of erythrocyte matrix density. At the beginning of the degradative process small, clear vesicles resembling primary lysosomes were visible inside the erythrophagosome. With time, the erythrocyte structure totally disappeared and transformed into a fine, granular material within the erythrophagosomal vacuole. Finally, the erythrocyte membrane detached from the phagosomal and clumped into the vacuolar space forming one or several small myelin-like figures. In conclusion, brown adipocytes are capable of performing intensive erythrophagocytic activity when brown adipose tissue is stimulated and blood flow is enhanced. The molecular basis for favouring a haemolytic instead of more common granular erythrophagosomal degradative pathway remains unknown.

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