The expression of endosomal rab proteins correlates with endocytic rate in rat liver cells



Hepatic endocytosis is characterized by a division of labor between the different cell types with respect to endocytosis, which is mediated by receptors expressed on their cell surface. We have investigated the expression of GTPases of the rab family in rat liver parenchymal and endothelial cells. Small GTPases of the rab protein family control distinct steps of intracellular transport both in the secretory and the endocytic pathway. As controls have been employed the normal rat kidney (NRK) cell line and brain tissue, neuronal cells are known to express high levels of components of the endocytic machinery (clathrin, adaptins, dynamin, uncoating adenosine triphosphatase, etc.). Endothelial cells were found to express four to seven times more rab4, rab5, and rab7 than parenchymal cells. A similar relationship was found between the endocytic rates in the two cell types; the rate of internalization from the plasma membrane of mannose receptors in rat liver endothelial cells was 2.3 pools/min, whereas the corresponding value for internalization of the galactose receptor in parenchymal liver cell was 0.27 pools/min (comparable with the rate of transferrin internalization in NRK cells). Both immunofluorescence and subcellular fractionation experiments showed that rab5 and rab7 were associated with compartments along the endocytic pathway. Brain tissue showed a similar high expression of endocytic components (rab4, rab5, and rab7) as liver endothelial cells, whereas lower values were found in NRK cells. We also analyzed the following proteins involved in endocytosis: clathrin, α-adaptin, β-adaptin, and rabaptin-5. These proteins showed the same pattern of expression as the rab proteins. In conclusion, the results obtained with liver cells corroborate the data obtained in transfected cells and support the notion that rab proteins may be involved in controlling the endocytic rate in liver cells.