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Keywords:

  • clathrin;
  • endocytosis;
  • intracellular transport;
  • LECA;
  • molecular evolution;
  • protein interaction networks;
  • trypanosoma

Endocytosis is a vital cellular process maintaining the cell surface, modulating signal transduction and facilitating nutrient acquisition. In metazoa, multiple endocytic modes are recognized, but for many unicellular organisms the process is likely dominated by the ancient clathrin-mediated pathway. The endocytic system of the highly divergent trypanosomatid Trypanosoma brucei exhibits many unusual features, including a restricted site of internalization, dominance of the plasma membrane by GPI-anchored proteins, absence of the AP2 complex and an exceptionally high rate. Here we asked if the proteins subtending clathrin trafficking in trypanosomes are exclusively related to those of higher eukaryotes or if novel, potentially taxon-specific proteins operate. Co-immunoprecipitation identified twelve T. brucei clathrin-associating proteins (TbCAPs), which partially colocalized with clathrin. Critically, eight TbCAPs are restricted to trypanosomatid genomes and all of these are required for robust cell proliferation. A subset, TbCAP100, TbCAP116, TbCAP161 and TbCAP334, were implicated in distinct endocytic steps by detailed analysis of knockdown cells. Coupled with the absence of orthologs for many metazoan and fungal endocytic factors, these data suggest that clathrin interactions in trypanosomes are highly lineage-specific, and indicate substantial evolutionary diversity within clathrin-mediated endocytosis mechanisms across the eukaryotes.