Membrane capacitance recordings resolve dynamics and complexity of receptor-mediated endocytosis in Wnt signalling

Sci Rep. 2019 Sep 10;9(1):12999. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-49082-4.


Receptor-mediated endocytosis is an essential process in signalling pathways for activation of intracellular signalling cascades. One example is the Wnt signalling pathway that seems to depend on endocytosis of the ligand-receptor complex for initiation of Wnt signal transduction. To date, the roles of different endocytic pathways in Wnt signalling, molecular players and the kinetics of the process remain unclear. Here, we monitored endocytosis in Wnt3a and Wnt5a-mediated signalling with membrane capacitance recordings of HEK293 cells. Our measurements revealed a swift and substantial increase in the number of endocytic vesicles. Extracellular Wnt ligands specifically triggered endocytotic activity, which started immediately upon ligand binding and ceased within a period of ten minutes. By using specific inhibitors, we were able to separate Wnt-induced endocytosis into two independent pathways. We demonstrate that canonical Wnt3a is taken up mainly by clathrin-independent endocytosis whereas noncanonical Wnt5a is exclusively regulated via clathrin-mediated endocytosis. Our findings show that membrane capacitance recordings allow the resolution of complex cellular processes in plasma membrane signalling pathways in great detail.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Clathrin / metabolism*
  • Endocytosis*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway
  • Wnt-5a Protein / genetics
  • Wnt-5a Protein / metabolism*
  • Wnt3A Protein / genetics
  • Wnt3A Protein / metabolism*


  • Clathrin
  • WNT3A protein, human
  • WNT5A protein, human
  • Wnt-5a Protein
  • Wnt3A Protein