Reduction of organelle motility by removal of potassium and other solutes

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2 Scopus citations


There are surprisingly few studies that describe how the composition of cell culture medium may affect the trafficking of organelles. Here we utilize time lapse multi-channel fluorescent imaging to show that short term exposure of Huh-7 cells to medium lacking potassium, sodium, or chloride strongly reduces but does not eliminate the characteristic back and forth and cell-traversing movement of fluorescent EGF (FL-EGF) containing organelles. We focused on potassium because of its relatively low abundance in media and serum and its energy requiring accumulation into cells. Upon exposure to potassium free medium, organelle motility declined steadily through 90 min and then persisted at a low level. Reduced motility was confirmed in 5 independent cell lines and for organelles of the endocytic pathway (FL-EGF and Lysotracker), autophagosomes (LC3-GFP), and mitochondria (TMRE). As has been previously established, potassium free medium also inhibited endocytosis. We expected that diminished cellular metabolism would precede loss of organelle motility. However, extracellular flux analysis showed near normal mitochondrial oxygen consumption and only a small decrease in extracellular acidification, the latter suggesting decreased glycolysis or proton efflux. Other energy dependent activities such as the accumulation of Lysotracker, TMRE, DiBAC4(3), and the exclusion of propidium iodide remained intact, as did the microtubule cytoskeleton. We took advantage of cell free in vitro motility assays and found that removal of potassium or sodium from the reconstituted cytosolic medium decreased the movement of endosomes on purified microtubules. The results indicate that although changes in proton homeostasis and cell energetics under solute depletion are not fully understood, potassium as well as sodium appear to be directly required by the motile machinery of organelles for optimal trafficking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0184898
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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