Apical endocytosis of 125I-ricin in Caco-2 cells was inhibited > 95% by hypertonic and/or acid media, consistent with the major uptake route being clathrin-mediated. The presence of apical cell surface bound ricin-gold in clathrin coated pits and vesicles was observed by electron microscopy. An electron microscopic investigation in which ricin-gold bound to the apical surface was quantitated, showed that cytochalasin D, which inhibits apical but not basolateral endocytosis, prevented movement of ricin-gold along the microvillar surface. This was consistent with an actin bound mechanochemical motor within microvilli driving the movement of membranous components towards the cell body. Cytochalasin D also caused an increase in the number of coated pits observed at the apical cell surface relative to the number observed in untreated cells. Stimulation of apical endocytosis of ricin by phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate showed the characteristics of being mediated by protein kinase C, was not due to an effect on ricin movement along the microvillar surface, and may be explained by increases in formation and pinching off of clathrin coated pits at the apical cell surface.

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