Accumulated data indicate that endocytosis of the glycosylphosphatidyl-inositol-anchored protein urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) depends on binding of the ligand uPA:plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) and subsequent interaction with internalization receptors of the low-density lipoprotein receptor family, which are internalized through clathrin-coated pits. This interaction is inhibited by receptor-associated protein (RAP). We show that uPAR with bound uPA:PAI-1 is capable of entering cells in a clathrin-independent process. First, HeLaK44A cells expressing mutant dynamin efficiently internalized uPA:PAI-1 under conditions in which transferrin endocytosis was blocked. Second, in polarized Madin–Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells, which expressed human uPAR apically, the low basal rate of uPAR ligand endocytosis, which could not be inhibited by RAP, was increased by forskolin or phorbol ester (phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate), which selectively up-regulate clathrin-independent endocytosis from the apical domain of epithelial cells. Third, in subconfluent nonpolarized MDCK cells, endocytosis of uPA:PAI-1 was only decreased marginally by RAP. At the ultrastructural level uPAR was largely excluded from clathrin-coated pits in these cells and localized in invaginated caveolae only in the presence of cross-linking antibodies. Interestingly, a larger fraction of uPAR in nonpolarized relative to polarized MDCK cells was insoluble in Triton X-100 at 0°C, and by surface labeling with biotin we also show that internalized uPAR was mainly detergent insoluble, suggesting a correlation between association with detergent-resistant membrane microdomains and higher degree of clathrin-independent endocytosis. Furthermore, by cryoimmunogold labeling we show that 5–10% of internalized uPAR in nonpolarized, but not polarized, MDCK cells is targeted to lysosomes by a mechanism that is regulated by ligand occupancy
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