Indexed on: 01 Oct '03Published on: 01 Oct '03Published in: The EMBO Journal
In Trypanosoma brucei, the plasma membrane is dominated by glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored proteins. Endocytic activity correlates with expression levels of the clathrin heavy chain TbCLH, and additional evidence suggests that rapid endocytosis may play a role in evasion of the immune response. TbCLH is present on both endocytic vesicles and post-Golgi elements, suggesting a similar range of functions in trypanosomes to higher eukaryotes. We have assessed the role of TbCLH using RNA interference (RNAi). Suppression of TbCLH expression results in rapid lethality in the bloodstream stage, the form most active for endocytosis. The flagellar pocket, the site of both endocytosis and exocytosis, becomes massively enlarged, suggesting that membrane delivery is unaffected but removal is blocked. Endocytosis in TbCLHRNAi cells is essentially undetectable, suggesting that clathrin-mediated mechanisms are the major route for endocytosis in T.brucei and hence that GPI-anchored proteins are endocytosed by clathrin-dependent pathways in trypanosomes. In contrast, a massive internal accumulation of vesicles and significant alterations to trafficking of a lysosomal protein were observed in the procyclic stage, indicating developmental variation in clathrin function in trypanosomes.