To study the molecular basis for organized pigment granule transport, procedures were developed to lyse melanophores of Tilapia mossambica under conditions in which pigment granule movements could be reactivated. Gentle lysis of the melanophores resulted in a permeabilized cell model, which, in the absence of exogenous ATP, could undergo multiple rounds of pigment granule aggregation and dispersion when sequentially challenged with epinephrine and cAMP. Both directions of transport required ATP, since aggregation or dispersion in melanophores depleted of nucleotides could be reactivated only upon addition of MgATP or MgATP plus cAMP, respectively. Differences between the nucleotide sensitivities for aggregation and dispersion were demonstrated by observations that aggregation had a lower apparent Km for ATP than did dispersion and could be initiated at a lower ATP concentration. Moreover, aggregation could be initiated by ADP, but only dispersion could be reactivated by the thiophosphate ATP analog, ATP gamma S. The direction of pigment transport was determined solely by cAMP, since pigment granules undergoing dispersion reaggregated when cAMP was removed, and those undergoing aggregation dispersed when cAMP was added. These results provide evidence that pigment granule motility may be based on two distinct mechanisms that are differentially activated and regulated to produce bidirectional movements.

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