The role of endocytosis in activating and regulating signal transduction

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2012 Jun;69(11):1755-71. doi: 10.1007/s00018-011-0877-1. Epub 2011 Nov 24.


Endocytosis is increasingly understood to play crucial roles in most signaling pathways, from determining which signaling components are activated, to how the signal is subsequently transduced and/or terminated. Whether a receptor-ligand complex is internalized via a clathrin-dependent or clathrin-independent endocytic route, and the complexes' subsequent trafficking through specific endocytic compartments, to then be recycled or degraded, has profound effects on signaling output. This review discusses the roles of endocytosis in three markedly different signaling pathways: the Wnt, Notch, and Eph/Ephrin pathways. These offer fundamentally different signaling systems: (1) diffusible ligands inducing signaling in one cell, (2) membrane-tethered ligands inducing signaling in a contacting receptor cell, and (3) bi-directional receptor-ligand signaling in two contacting cells. In each of these systems, endocytosis controls signaling in fascinating ways, and comparison of their similarities and dissimilarities will help to expand our understanding of endocytic control of signal transduction across multiple signaling pathways.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Communication
  • Clathrin-Coated Vesicles / physiology
  • Endocytosis / physiology*
  • Ligands
  • Models, Biological*
  • Receptors, Eph Family / metabolism
  • Receptors, Eph Family / physiology
  • Receptors, Notch / metabolism
  • Receptors, Notch / physiology
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism
  • Wnt Proteins / physiology


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Notch
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Receptors, Eph Family