Endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT)-III-mediated membrane invagination and scission are a critical step in multivesicular body (MVB) sorting of ubiquitinated membrane receptors, and generally thought to be required for degradation of these receptors in lysosomes. The adaptor protein Alix is critically involved in multiple ESCRT-III-mediated, membrane-remodelling processes in mammalian cells. However, Alix knockdown does not inhibit degradation of the activated epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in mammalian cell lines, leading to a widely held notion that Alix is not critically involved in MVB sorting of ubiquitinated membrane receptors in mammalian cells. In the present study, we demonstrate that, despite its non-essential role in degradation of the activated EGFR, Alix plays a critical role in its MVB sorting and silencing Epidermal growth factor (EGF) stimulation of mammalian cell lines induces Alix's interaction with the ubiquitinated EGFR via the Alix V domain, and increases Alix's association with membrane-bound charged multivesicular body protein 4 (CHMP4) via the Alix Bro1 domain. Under both continuous and pulse-chase EGF stimulation conditions, inhibition of Alix's interaction with membrane-bound CHMP4, inhibition of Alix dimerization through the V domain or Alix knockdown dramatically inhibits MVB sorting of the activated EGFR and promotes sustained activation of extracellular-signal regulated kinase (ERK)1/2. Under the continuous EGF stimulation conditions, these cell treatments also retard degradation of the activated EGFR. These findings indicate that Alix is critically involved in MVB sorting of ubiquitinated membrane receptors in mammalian cells.

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