Special Issue on Active Matter: Molecular Thermodynamics of Receptor Competition for Endocytic Uptake
Endocytic uptake of receptors from the cell surface plays an important role in diverse processes from cell signaling to nutrient internalization. Understanding the mechanisms by which endocytic structures select receptors for internalization is of fundamental importance to our understanding of cellular physiology. Binding of receptors to the endocytic protein machinery is known to facilitate receptor loading into endocytic structures. However, many receptor species use the same small set of biochemical motifs to interact with the endocytic machinery, suggesting that receptors may compete for a limited number of binding sites within endocytic structures. Previous studies have shown that such competition can substantially modify receptor uptake. However, a predictive biophysical understanding of this phenomenon is currently lacking. Toward addressing this gap, here we employ quantitative imaging and statistical thermodynamics to measure and predict the competition between two distinct receptor species that are internalized simultaneously from the cell surface. Our studies demonstrate that when receptors compete for the same interactions with the endocytic machinery, their uptake is fundamentally coupled. Importantly, we find that these trends can be quantitatively predicted by a simple thermodynamic analysis. These results suggest that multiple receptor species reach an equilibrium partitioning between endocytic structures and the surrounding plasma membrane as the receptors compete for occupancy within dynamic endocytic structures. More broadly, this work provides a quantitative framework for predicting the impact of competition on receptor uptake, an effect which has the potential to physically couple signaling pathways that impact diverse aspects of cellular physiology.