Treatment with cytochalasin D, a drug that acts by inducing the depolymerization of the actin cytoskeleton, selectively blocked endocytosis of membrane bound and fluid phase markers from the apical surface of polarized MDCK cells without affecting the uptake from the basolateral surface. Thus, in MDCK cell transformants that express the VSV G protein, cytochalasin blocked the internalization of an anti-G mAb bound to apical G molecules, but did not reduce the uptake of antibody bound to the basolateral surface. The selective effect of cytochalasin D on apical endocytosis was also demonstrated by the failure of the drug to reduce the uptake of 125I-labeled transferrin, which occurs by receptor-mediated endocytosis, via clathrin-coated pits, almost exclusively from the basolateral surface. The actin cytoskeleton appears to play a critical role in adsorptive as well as fluid phase apical endocytic events, since treatment with cytochalasin D prevented the apical uptake of cationized ferritin, that occurs after the marker binds to the cell surface, as well as uptake of Lucifer yellow, a fluorescent soluble dye. Moreover, the drug efficiently blocked infection of the cells with influenza virus, when the viral inoculum was applied to the apical surface. On the other hand, it did not inhibit the basolateral uptake of Lucifer yellow, nor did it prevent infection with VSV from the basolateral surface, or with influenza when this virus was applied to monolayers in which the formation of tight junctions had been prevented by depletion of calcium ions. EM demonstrated that cytochalasin D leads to an increase in the number of coated pits in the apical surface where it suppresses the pinching off of coated vesicles. In addition, in drug-treated cells cationized ferritin molecules that were bound to microvilli were not cleared from the microvillar surface, as is observed in untreated cells. These findings indicate that there is a fundamental difference in the process by which endocytic vesicles are formed at the two surfaces of polarized epithelial cells and that the integrity and/or the polymerization of actin filaments are required at the apical surface. Actin filaments in microvilli may be part of a mechanochemical motor that moves membrane components along the microvillar surface towards intermicrovillar spaces, or provides the force required for converting a membrane invagination or pit into an endocytic vesicle within the cytoplasm.

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