Rab GTPases are regulators of intracellular membrane traffic. The Rab27 subfamily consists of Rab27a and Rab27b. Rab27a has been recently implicated in Griscelli Disease, a disease combining partial albinism with severe immunodeficiency. Rab27a plays a key role in the function of lysosomal-like organelles such as melanosomes in melanocytes and lytic granules in cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Little is known about Rab27b.
The human RAB27B gene is organised in six exons, spanning about 69 kb in the chromosome 18q21.1 region. Exon 1 is non-coding and is separated from the others by 49 kb of DNA and exon 6 contains a long 3' untranslated sequence (6.4 kb). The mouse Rab27b cDNA shows 95% identity with the human cDNA at the protein level and maps to mouse chromosome 18. The mouse mRNA was detected in stomach, large intestine, spleen and eye by RT-PCR, and in heart, brain, spleen and kidney by Northern blot. Transient over-expression of EGF-Rab27b fusion protein in cultured melanocytes revealed that Rab27b is associated with melanosomes, as observed for EGF-Rab27a.
Our results indicate that the Rab27 subfamily of Ras-like GTPases is highly conserved in mammals. There is high degree of conservation in sequence and gene structure between RAB27A and RAB27B genes. Exogenous expression of Rab27b in melanocytes results in melanosomal association as observed for Rab27a, suggesting the two Rab27 proteins are functional homologues. As with RAB27A in Griscelli Disease, RAB27B may be also associated with human disease mapping to chromosome 18.