The role of clathrin in endocytosis of the yeast phermone receptors was examined using strains expressing a temperature-sensitive clathrin heavy chain. The yeast phermone receptors belong to the family of seven transmembrane segment, G-protein-coupled receptors. A rapid and reversible defect in uptake of radiolabeled alpha-factor pheromone occurred when the cells were transferred to the nonpermissive temperature. Constitutive, pheromone-independent internalization of newly synthesized a-factor phermone receptor was also rapidly inhibited in mutant strains at the nonpermissive temperature. In both cases residual endocytosis, 30-50% of wild-type levels, was detected in the absence of functional clathrin heavy chain. Once internalized, the a-factor receptor was delivered to the vacuole at comparable rates in chc1-ts and wild-type cells at the nonpermissive temperature. Clathrin heavy chain was also required for maximal uptake of a mutant a-factor receptor which is dependent on pheromone for internalization. In the presence of a-factor, the internalization rate of the mutant receptor in chc1-ts cells at the nonpermissive temperature was 2.5 times slower than the rate observed for endocytosis of the mutant receptor in wild-type cells. These experiments provide in vivo evidence that clathrin plays an important role in the endocytosis of the seven trans-membrane segment pheromone receptors in yeast.

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