In epithelial cell lines, apical but not basolateral clathrin-mediated endocytosis has been shown to be affected by actin-disrupting drugs. Using electron and fluorescence microscopy, as well as biochemical assays, we show that the amount of actin dedicated to endocytosis is limiting at the apical surface of epithelia. In part, this contributes to the low basal rate of clathrin-dependent endocytosis observed at this epithelial surface. ARF6 in its GTP-bound state triggers the recruitment of actin from the cell cortex to the clathrin-coated pit to enable dynamin-dependent endocytosis. In addition, we show that perturbation of the apical endocytic system by expression of a clathrin heavy-chain mutant results in the collapse of microvilli. This phenotype was completely reversed by the expression of an ARF6-GTP-locked mutant. These observations indicate that concomitant to actin recruitment, the apical clathrin endocytic system is deeply involved in the morphology of the apical plasma membrane.
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