Behavior of lead in a model microbial predator-prey system.
Lead acetate (0.1--0.2%) forms a precipitate with the organic growth medium. The Tetrahymena cells ingest this lead-containing precipitate and cell growth is resumed after a variable lag period. Ingested lead is observed as electron-dense material in food vacuoles. Soon after exposure, cytoplasmic lead (preserved with certain fixation only) is revealed as electron-dense particles in cilia and in a halo around digestive vacuoles. Later the lead particles pervade the entire cell but after the lag period they are confined to membrane-bound spaces. In dilute growth medium, high concentrations of lead inhibit food-vacuole formation and cell growth. Under these conditions lead is deposited in alveoli of the pellicle and is also found in autophagic vacuoles and other membrane-limited structures. The study has revealed that lead enters Tetrahymena through the membrane of digestive vacuoles and through the cell surface. The change in distribution of lead during the lag period indicates that a mechanism is activated for removal of lead into membrane-bound spaces. The final storage of lead seems to be in lysosomes.