Principles of self-organization and load adaptation by the actin cytoskeleton during clathrin-mediated endocytosis
Force generation due to actin assembly is a fundamental aspect of membrane sculpting for many essential processes. In this work, we use a multiscale computational model constrained by experimental measurements to show that a minimal branched actin network is sufficient to internalize endocytic pits against physiological membrane tension. A parameter sweep identified the number of Arp2/3 complexes as particularly important for robust internalization, which prompted the development of a molecule-counting method in live mammalian cells. Using this method, we found that ~200 Arp2/3 complexes assemble at sites of clathrin-mediated endocytosis in human cells. Our simulations also revealed that actin networks self-organize in a radial branched array with barbed filament ends oriented to grow toward the base of the pit, and that the distribution of linker proteins around the endocytic pit is critical for this organization. Surprisingly, our model predicted that long actin filaments bend from their attachment sites in the coat to the base of the pit and store elastic energy that can be harnessed to drive endocytosis. This prediction was validated using cryo-electron tomography on cells, which revealed the presence of bent actin filaments along the endocytic site. Furthermore, we predict that under elevated membrane tension, the self-organized actin network directs more growing filaments toward the base of the pit, increasing actin nucleation and bending for increased force production. Thus, our study reveals that spatially constrained actin filament assembly utilizes an adaptive mechanism that enables endocytosis under varying physical constraints.
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