During clathrin-mediated endocytosis (CME), over 50 different proteins assemble on the plasma membrane to reshape it into a cargo-laden vesicle. It has long been assumed that cargo triggers local CME site assembly in Saccharomyces cerevisiae based on the discovery that cortical actin patches, which cluster near exocytic sites, are CME sites. Quantitative imaging data reported here lead to a radically different view of which CME steps are regulated and which steps are deterministic. We quantitatively and spatially describe progression through the CME pathway and pinpoint a cargo-sensitive regulatory transition point that governs progression from the initiation phase of CME to the internalization phase. Thus, site maturation, rather than site initiation, accounts for the previously observed polarized distribution of actin patches in this organism. While previous studies suggested that cargo ensures its own internalization by regulating either CME initiation rates or frequency of abortive events, our data instead identify maturation through a checkpoint in the pathway as the cargo-sensitive step.

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