Endothelial cell protein C receptor (EPCR) is the cellular receptor for protein C (PC) and activated protein C (APC). Recent studies from others and us showed that EPCR also acts as a cellular binding site for factor VII (FVII) and activated factor VII (FVIIa). Although much is know about the biochemistry and pathophysiological importance of EPCR, little is know how EPCR interaction with its ligands on cell surfaces affects its expression and facilitate internalization of the ligands. The present study was undertaken to characterize cellular localization and trafficking of EPCR and investigate how FVIIa or APC binding to EPCR influences these processes. The studies employed two cell model systems - primary cultured human umbilical endothelial cells (HUVEC) and CHO cells stably transfected with EPCR. Cellular localization of EPCR and its trafficking was analyzed by immunofluorescence confocal microscopy or monitoring the expression of EPCR tagged with green fluorescence protein (GFP). EPCR endocytosis was evaluated by biotinylation of cell surface proteins with NHS-SS- biotin, followed by monitoring the protection of biotinylated EPCR from a membrane-impermeable reducing agent. FVIIa and APC internalization and recycling was evaluated by monitoring the uptake/release of 125I-labeled ligands or following the intracellular routing of fluorescent dye (AF488)-conjugated ligands added to EPCR expressing cells. Data from these studies showed that a majority of EPCR is localized on the cell surface and distributed in a patchy and punctuate manner. Immunostaining of HUVEC and CHO-EPCR cells with EPCR mAb and caveolin-1 antibodies showed a high degree of co-localization of EPCR and caveolin-1. Depletion of cholesterol from the plasma membrane, which disrupts caveolae, by ß methyl cyclodextrin reduced the extent EPCR and caveloin-1 colocalization. These data indicate EPCR on the cell surface predominantly localizes in caveolae. Inside the cell, EPCR is mainly localized in a small perinuclear structure, which is the site of centrosome. Colocalization of EPCR with tubulin (a marker for centrosome) and rab 11 (a marker of recycling compartment, REC) revealed that EPCR is localized actually in the REC and not in the centrosome. A small fraction of EPCR is also localized in endosomes as evident from colocalization of EPCR with EEA1 and Rab5, early endosome markers. Chasing the cell surface biotinylated proteins showed no significant increase in the biotinylated EPCR in the intracellular pool of proteins, which indicate that EPCR is not actively endocytosed constitutively or that the internalized EPCR is immediately recycled back to the cell surface. FVIIa or APC binding to EPCR promoted the EPCR endocytosis. The endocytosed receptors were first observed in proximity of the plasma membrane after 10 min and by 30 to 60 min most of the endocytosed EPCR was accumulated in the REC. The internalized FVIIa or APC appeared to follow the same route of the endocytosed EPCR. Proteolytically inactive FVIIa or APC behaved same as FVIIa or APC in promoting EPCR endocytosis and its trafficking. EPCR-dependent FVIIa or APC internalization is a dynamin-dependent process as the inhibition of the GTPase activity of dynamin by a specific inhibitor (Dynasore) completely abrogated their internalization and accumulation in the REC. Additional studies revealed that disruption of coated-pit pathway by potassium depletion blocked the endocytosis of transferrin, a classic marker for endocytosis via clathrin-dependent coated-pit pathway, but had no effect on EPCR-dependent FVIIa or APC internalization. In contrast, disruption of caveolae by cholesterol depletion blocked the internalization of FVIIa but not transferrin. Rab11 dominant negative mutant form (S25N) prevented the passage of the endocytosed EPCR or the internalized FVIIa or APC into the REC. After peaking at 30 min, the amount of both the ligands and the receptor in the REC gradually decreased, and some of the internalized ligand re-appeared at the cell surface. Overall the data provided herein suggest that FVIIa or APC binding to EPCR, independent of their protease activity, promotes EPCR endocytosis via the dynamin-dependent caveolar pathway and the activation of rab11 by GTP is required for exit of the endocytosed receptor or the ligands from sorting endosomes to the recycling compartment.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes

Corresponding author

Sign in via your Institution