ATP hydrolysis was used to power the enzymatic release of clathrin from coated vesicles. The 70,000-mol-wt protein, purified on the basis of its ATP-dependent ability to disassemble clathrin cages, was found to possess a clathrin-dependent ATPase activity. Hydrolysis was specific for ATP; neither dATP nor other ribonucleotide triphosphates would either substitute for ATP or inhibit the hydrolysis of ATP in the presence of clathrin cages. The ATPase activity is elicited by clathrin in the form of assembled cages, but not by clathrin trimers, the product of cage disassembly. The 70,000-mol-wt polypeptide, but not clathrin, was labeled by ATP in photochemical cross-linking, indicating that the hydrolytic site for ATP resides on the uncoating protein. Conditions of low pH or high magnesium concentration uncouple ATP hydrolysis from clathrin release, as ATP is hydrolyzed although essentially no clathrin is released. This suggests that the recognition event triggering clathrin-dependent ATP hydrolysis occurs in the absence of clathrin release, and presumably precedes such release.
Uncoating ATPase, an abundant 70,000-mol-wt polypeptide mediating the ATP-dependent dissociation of clathrin from coated vesicles and empty clathrin cages, has been purified to virtual homogeneity from calf brain cytosol. Uncoating protein is present in cells in amounts roughly stoichiometric with clathrin. This enzyme is isolated as a mixture of monomers and dimers, both forms being active. ATP can support protein-facilitated dissociation of clathrin at micromolar levels; all other ribotriphosphates as well as deoxy-ATP are inactive. The clathrin that is released from cages consists of trimers (triskelions) in a stoichiometric complex with uncoating ATPase. These complexes with clathrin have little tendency to self-associate at neutral pH, and at acidic pH they interfere with the assembly of free clathrin. The possible existence and function of these complexes as clathrin carriers in cells would explain why uncoating protein is made in quantities equivalent to clathrin.
Calf-brain coated vesicles were incubated with ATP and a cytosol fraction. As much as 90% of the clathrin was selectively released within 10 min at 37 degrees C without detectable proteolysis. This uncoating process required the presence of both ATP and cytosol. Empty cages of clathrin could also be dissociated in a similar manner. A nonhydrolyzable analogue, 5'-adenylylimidodiphosphate (AMP-PNP), would not substitute for ATP. Clathrin was dissociated from coats in a form unable to reassemble into cages under standard conditions. These reactions may reflect a segment of a clathrin-coated vesicle cycle in which coats are removed from vesicles after budding.