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J Cell Biol. 2003 Oct 27;163(2):231-6.

Clathrin promotes incorporation of cargo into coated pits by activation of the AP2 adaptor micro2 kinase.

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Department of Biomedical, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1TN, USA.


Endocytic cargo such as the transferrin receptor is incorporated into clathrin-coated pits by associating, via tyrosine-based motifs, with the AP2 complex. Cargo-AP2 interactions occur via the mu2 subunit of AP2, which needs to be phosphorylated for endocytosis to occur. The most likely role for mu2 phosphorylation is in cargo recruitment because mu2 phosphorylation enhances its binding to internalization motifs. Here, we investigate the control of mu2 phosphorylation. We identify clathrin as a specific activator of the mu2 kinase and, in permeabilized cells, we show that ligand sequestration, driven by exogenous clathrin, results in elevated levels of mu2 phosphorylation. Furthermore, we show that AP2 containing phospho-mu2 is mainly associated with assembled clathrin in vivo, and that the level of phospho-mu2 is strongly reduced in a chicken B cell line depleted of clathrin heavy chain. Our results imply a central role for clathrin in the regulation of cargo selection via the modulation of phospho-mu2 levels.

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