June 19, 2015

EMBL Scientists solve decades-old cell biology puzzle

Behaviour of clathrin proteins, crucial for endocytosis, is clarified using new imaging techniques

In a nutshell:

*  Clathrin proteins involved in endocytosis form a lattice that can dramatically change its shape
*  Combination of fluorescence microscopy and 3D electron microscopy allows quantitative data to be analysed
** Results offer new understanding of role of clathrin in endocytosis

(June 19, 2015)   Researchers at EMBL Heidelberg have solved a question that has puzzled cell biologists for decades – how does the protein machine that allows cells to swallow up molecules during endocytosis function?

Endocytosis is the process by which cells engulf molecules and draw them inside the cell where they perform different functions. This engulfment involves making dimples in the cell membrane that deepen with time and eventually seal off to make a spherical vesicle inside the cell. Essential to the process is the formation of a lattice-like protein shell on the surface of the vesicle membrane. However, there is still no consensus as to the exact function of this coat. Even for the best understood coat protein, clathrin, opinion has split between two different models.

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