Journal of cell science

Endocytic mechanisms responsible for uptake of GPI-linked diphtheria toxin receptor.

PMID 10547351


We have here used diphtheria toxin as a tool to investigate the type of endocytosis used by a glycosylphosphatidylinositol-linked molecule, a glycosylphosphatidylinositol-linked version of the diphtheria toxin receptor that is able to mediate intoxication. The receptor is expressed in HeLa cells where clathrin-dependent endocytosis can be blocked by overexpression of mutant dynamin. Diphtheria toxin intoxicates cells by first binding to cell-surface receptors, then the toxin is endocytosed, and upon exposure to low endosomal pH, the toxin enters the cytosol where it inhibits protein synthesis. Inhibition of protein synthesis by the toxin can therefore be used to probe the entry of the glycosylphosphatidylinositol-linked receptor into an acidic compartment. Furthermore, degradation of the toxin can be used as an indicator of entry into the endosomal/lysosomal compartment. The data show that although expression of mutant dynamin inhibits intoxication mediated via the wild-type receptors, mutant dynamin does not affect intoxication or endocytosis and degradation of diphtheria toxin bound to the glycosylphosphatidylinositol-linked receptor. Confocal microscopy demonstrated that diphtheria toxin is transported to vesicles containing EEA1, a marker for early endosomes. Biochemical and ultrastructural studies of the HeLa cells used reveal that they have very low levels of caveolin-1 and that they contain very few if any caveolae at the cell surface. Furthermore, the endocytic uptake of diphtheria toxin bound to the glycosylphosphatidylinositol-linked receptor was not reduced by methyl-beta-cyclodextrin or by nystatin which both disrupt caveolar structure and functions. Thus, uptake of a glycosylphosphatidylinositol-linked protein, in this case the diphtheria toxin receptor, into the endosomal/lysosomal system can occur independently of both caveolae and clathrin-coated vesicles.