C. elegans Disabled is required for cell-type specific endocytosis and is essential in animals lacking the AP-3 adaptor complex.
Disabled proteins are a conserved family of monomeric adaptor proteins that in mammals are implicated in the endocytosis of lipoprotein receptors. Previous studies have shown that the sole Caenorhabditis elegans Disabled homologue, DAB-1, is involved in the lipoprotein receptor-mediated secretion of a fibroblast growth factor. We show here that DAB-1 is essential for the uptake of yolk protein by developing oocytes, and for the localisation of the yolk receptor RME-2. The localisation of DAB-1 in oocytes is itself dependent upon clathrin and AP2, consistent with DAB-1 acting as a clathrin-associated sorting protein during yolk protein endocytosis. DAB-1 is also required for the endocytosis of molecules from the pseudocoelomic fluid by the macrophage-like coelomocytes, and is broadly expressed in epithelial tissues, consistent with a general role in receptor-mediated endocytosis. We also show that dab-1 mutations are synthetic lethal in combination with loss-of-function mutations affecting the AP-1 and AP-3 complexes, suggesting that the reduced fluid and membrane uptake exhibited by dab-1 mutants sensitises them to defects in other trafficking pathways.