Lipid bodies: Cytoplasmic organelles important to arachidonate metabolism in macrophages and mast cells

A. M. Dvorak, H. F. Dvorak, S. P. Peters, E. S. Shulman, D. W. MacGlashan, K. Pyne, V. S. Harvey, S. J. Galli, L. M. Lichtenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Much has been learned about the biochemical nature and pharmacologic activity of the products of arachidonic acid (AA) oxidation, but relatively little is known about the structures in nucleated cells into which AA is incorporated and from which it is initially mobilized. To address this question, we administered 3H-AA or other 3H-fatty acids in vitro to human lung mast cells and alveolar macrophages as well as to mouse and guinea pig peritoneal macrophages. The subcellular distribution of 3H label was assessed by electron microscopic autoradiography, and the nature of cell-associated 3H-lipids was determined by thin layer chromatography. Autoradiographic analysis of human lung mast cells localized virtually all of the 3H-AA to cytoplasmic lipid bodies. Lipid bodies are roughly spherical, variably osmiophilic, nonmembrane-bound structures that appear in the cytoplasm of a wide variety of cells, but we have found that these lipid bodies occur with increased frequency in granulocytes, macrophages, and mast cells at sites of inflammatory, immunologic, or neoplastic processes. Macrophages also incorporated 3H-AA predominantly into cytoplasmic lipid bodies. In contrast to mast cells, however, macrophages incorporated 3H-AA into the plasma membrane as well. Stimulation of macrophage phagocytosis resulted in striking alterations of the relationship of lipid bodies to intracellular membranes, so that many lipid bodies appeared adjacent to phagolysosomes. In addition, some phagolysosomes contained 3H label, which along with other morphologic evidence suggested that lipid bodies may discharge their contents into these structures. Mast cell and macrophage cytoplasmic lipid bodies appear to represent a major site of intracellular storage and metabolism of products of AA and perhaps other fatty acids taken up from the external milieu. These heretofore neglected organelles may thus influence cellular function in a wide variety of adaptive or pathologic processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2965-2976
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1983
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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