Endocytosis and signaling: cell logistics shape the eukaryotic cell plan

Physiol Rev. 2012 Jan;92(1):273-366. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00005.2011.


Our understanding of endocytosis has evolved remarkably in little more than a decade. This is the result not only of advances in our knowledge of its molecular and biological workings, but also of a true paradigm shift in our understanding of what really constitutes endocytosis and of its role in homeostasis. Although endocytosis was initially discovered and studied as a relatively simple process to transport molecules across the plasma membrane, it was subsequently found to be inextricably linked with almost all aspects of cellular signaling. This led to the notion that endocytosis is actually the master organizer of cellular signaling, providing the cell with understandable messages that have been resolved in space and time. In essence, endocytosis provides the communications and supply routes (the logistics) of the cell. Although this may seem revolutionary, it is still likely to be only a small part of the entire story. A wealth of new evidence is uncovering the surprisingly pervasive nature of endocytosis in essentially all aspects of cellular regulation. In addition, many newly discovered functions of endocytic proteins are not immediately interpretable within the classical view of endocytosis. A possible framework, to rationalize all this new knowledge, requires us to "upgrade" our vision of endocytosis. By combining the analysis of biochemical, biological, and evolutionary evidence, we propose herein that endocytosis constitutes one of the major enabling conditions that in the history of life permitted the development of a higher level of organization, leading to the actuation of the eukaryotic cell plan.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Endocytosis / physiology*
  • Eukaryotic Cells / cytology
  • Eukaryotic Cells / physiology*
  • Hemostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*