The herbicide paraquat (PQ) is an exogenous toxin that allows the selective activation of dopaminergic neurons in the mesencephalon to induce injury and also causes its apoptosis in vitro. However, uptake mechanisms between PQ and neurons remain elusive. To address this issue, we undertook a study of PQ endocytosis in a dopaminergic SH-SY5Y cell line as well as explored the subsequent subcellular location and potential functional analysis of PQ. The PQ was found to bind the SH-SY5Y cell membrane and then became internalized via a clathrin-dependent pathway. PQ was internalized by many subcellular organelles in a time- and dose-dependent manner. Interestingly, the taken up PQ and secretogranin III (SCG3), which became dysregulated with PQ treatment that induced SH-SY5Y apoptosis in our previous study, colocalized in cytoplasmic vesicles. Taken together, our findings indicate that PQ is endocytosed by SH-SY5Y cells and that its multiple, subcellular localizations indicate PQ may potentially be involved in subcellular-level functions. More importantly, PQ distributing preferentially into SCG3-positive vesicles demonstrates its selective targeting which may affect SCG3 and cargoes carried by SCG3-positive vesicles. Therefore, it is reasonable to infer that PQ toxic insults may potentially interfere with neurotransmitter storage and transport associated with secretory granules.
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