Clathrin-adaptor ratio and membrane tension regulate the flat-to-curved transition of the clathrin coat during endocytosis

Bucher D, Frey F, Sochacki KA, Kummer S, Bergeest JP, Godinez WJ, Kräusslich HG, Rohr K, Taraska JW, Schwarz US, Boulant S.

Although essential for many cellular processes, the sequence of structural and molecular events during clathrin-mediated endocytosis remains elusive. While it was long believed that clathrin-coated pits grow with a constant curvature, it was recently suggested that clathrin first assembles to form flat structures that then bend while maintaining a constant surface area. Here, we combine correlative electron and light microscopy and mathematical growth laws to study the ultrastructural rearrangements of the clathrin coat during endocytosis in BSC-1 mammalian cells. We confirm that clathrin coats initially grow flat and demonstrate that curvature begins when around 70% of the final clathrin content is acquired. We find that this transition is marked by a change in the clathrin to clathrin-adaptor protein AP2 ratio and that membrane tension suppresses this transition. Our results support the notion that BSC-1 mammalian cells dynamically regulate the flat-to-curved transition in clathrin-mediated endocytosis by both biochemical and mechanical factors.