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1.  Rab GTPase Prenylation Hierarchy and Its Potential Role in Choroideremia Disease 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e81758.
Protein prenylation is a widespread post-translational modification in eukaryotes that plays a crucial role in membrane targeting and signal transduction. RabGTPases is the largest group of post-translationally C-terminally geranylgeranylated. All Rabs are processed by Rab geranylgeranyl-transferase and Rab escort protein (REP). Human genetic defects resulting in the loss one of two REP isoforms REP-1, lead to underprenylation of RabGTPases that manifests in retinal degradation and blindness known as choroideremia. In this study we used a combination of microinjections and chemo-enzymatic tagging to establish whether Rab GTPases are prenylated and delivered to their target cellular membranes with the same rate. We demonstrate that although all tested Rab GTPases display the same rate of membrane delivery, the extent of Rab prenylation in 5 hour time window vary by more than an order of magnitude. We found that Rab27a, Rab27b, Rab38 and Rab42 display the slowest prenylation in vivo and in the cell. Our work points to possible contribution of Rab38 to the emergence of choroideremia in addition to Rab27a and Rab27b.
PMCID: PMC3864799  PMID: 24358126
2.  Rab GDI: a solubilizing and recycling factor for rab9 protein. 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  1993;4(4):425-434.
Rab proteins are thought to function in the processes by which transport vesicles identify and/or fuse with their respective target membranes. The bulk of these proteins are membrane associated, but a measurable fraction can be found in the cytosol. The cytosolic forms of rab3A, rab11, and Sec4 occur as equimolar complexes with a class of proteins termed "GDIs," or "GDP dissociation inhibitors." We show here that the cytosolic form of rab9, a protein required for transport between late endosomes and the trans Golgi network, also occurs as a complex with a GDI-like protein, with an apparent mass of approximately 80 kD. Complex formation could be reconstituted in vitro using recombinant rab9 protein, cytosol, ATP, and geranylgeranyl diphosphate, and was shown to require an intact rab9 carboxy terminus, as well as rab9 geranylgeranylation. Monoprenylation was sufficient for complex formation because a mutant rab9 protein bearing the carboxy terminal sequence, CLLL, was prenylated in vitro by geranylgeranyl transferase I and was efficiently incorporated into 80-kD complexes. Purified, prenylated rab9 could also assemble into 80-kD complexes by addition of purified, rab3A GDI. Finally, rab3A-GDI had the capacity to solubilize rab9GDP, but not rab9GTP, from cytoplasmic membranes. These findings support the proposal that GDI proteins serve to recycle rab proteins from their target membranes after completion of a rab protein-mediated, catalytic cycle. Thus GDI proteins have the potential to regulate the availability of specific intracellular transport factors.
PMCID: PMC300943  PMID: 8389620
3.  A novel statin-mediated “prenylation block-and-release” assay provides insight into the membrane targeting mechanisms of small GTPases 
Ras super-family small GTPases regulate diverse cellular processes such as vesicular transport and signal transduction. Critical to these activities is the ability of these proteins to target to specific intracellular membranes. To allow association with membranes Ras-related GTPases are post-translationally modified by covalent attachment of prenyl groups to conserved cysteine residues at or near their C-terminus. Here we used the HMG-CoA (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A) reductase (HMGCR) inhibitor mevastatin to develop a ‘prenylation block-and-release’ assay that allows membrane targeting of prenylated proteins to be visualized in living cells. Using this assay we investigated the cytosol to membrane targeting of several small GTPases to compartments of the secretory and endocytic pathways. We found that all Rabs tested were targeted directly to the membrane on which they reside at steady-state and not via an intermediate location as reported for Ras and Rho proteins. However, we observed that the kinetics of cytosol to membrane targeting differed for each Rab tested. Comparison of the mevastatin sensitivity and kinetics of membrane targeting of Rab23, Rab23 prenylation motif mutants and H-Ras revealed that these parameters are strongly dependent upon the prenyl transferase with Rab geranylgeranyl transferase substrates exhibiting higher sensitivity and requiring greater time to recover from mevastatin inhibition than farnesyl transferase substrates. We propose that this assay is a useful tool to investigate the kinetics, biological functions and the mechanisms of membrane targeting of prenylated proteins.
PMCID: PMC2908739  PMID: 20471365
GTPases; Prenylation; Statin; Trafficking; Rab proteins
4.  Molecular Basis for Rab Prenylation 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2000;150(1):89-104.
Rab escort proteins (REP) 1 and 2 are closely related mammalian proteins required for prenylation of newly synthesized Rab GTPases by the cytosolic heterodimeric Rab geranylgeranyl transferase II complex (RabGG transferase). REP1 in mammalian cells is the product of the choroideremia gene (CHM). CHM/REP1 deficiency in inherited disease leads to degeneration of retinal pigmented epithelium and loss of vision. We now show that amino acid residues required for Rab recognition are critical for function of the yeast REP homologue Mrs6p, an essential protein that shows 50% homology to mammalian REPs. Mutant Mrs6p unable to bind Rabs failed to complement growth of a mrs6Δ null strain and were found to be dominant inhibitors of growth in a wild-type MRS6 strain. Mutants were identified that did not affect Rab binding, yet prevented prenylation in vitro and failed to support growth of the mrs6Δ null strain. These results suggest that in the absence of Rab binding, REP interaction with RabGG transferase is maintained through Rab-independent binding sites, providing a molecular explanation for the kinetic properties of Rab prenylation in vitro. Analysis of the effects of thermoreversible temperature-sensitive (mrs6ts) mutants on vesicular traffic in vivo showed prenylation activity is only transiently required to maintain normal growth, a result promising for therapeutic approaches to disease.
PMCID: PMC2185574  PMID: 10893259
choroideremia; REP1; CHM; vesicle traffic; MRS6
5.  The Putative “Switch 2” Domain of the Ras-related GTPase, Rab1B, Plays an Essential Role in the Interaction with Rab Escort Protein 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  1998;9(1):223-235.
Posttranslational modification of Rab proteins by geranylgeranyltransferase type II requires that they first bind to Rab escort protein (REP). Following prenylation, REP is postulated to accompany the modified GTPase to its specific target membrane. REP binds preferentially to Rab proteins that are in the GDP state, but the specific structural domains involved in this interaction have not been defined. In p21 Ras, the α2 helix of the Switch 2 domain undergoes a major conformational change upon GTP hydrolysis. Therefore, we hypothesized that the corresponding region in Rab1B might play a key role in the interaction with REP. Introduction of amino acid substitutions (I73N, Y78D, and A81D) into the putative α2 helix of Myc-tagged Rab1B prevented prenylation of the recombinant protein in cell-free assays, whereas mutations in the α3 and α4 helices did not. Additionally, upon transient expression in transfected HEK-293 cells, the Myc-Rab1B α2 helix mutants were not efficiently prenylated as determined by incorporation of [3H]mevalonate. Metabolic labeling studies using [32P]orthophosphate indicated that the poor prenylation of the Rab1B α2 helix mutants was not directly correlated with major disruptions in guanine nucleotide binding or intrinsic GTPase activity. Finally, gel filtration analysis of cytosolic fractions from 293 cells that were coexpressing T7 epitope-tagged REP with various Myc-Rab1B constructs revealed that mutations in the α2 helix of Rab1B prevented the association of nascent (i.e., nonprenylated) Rab1B with REP. These data indicate that the Switch 2 domain of Rab1B is a key structural determinant for REP interaction and that nucleotide-dependent conformational changes in this region are largely responsible for the selective interaction of REP with the GDP-bound form of the Rab substrate.
PMCID: PMC25245  PMID: 9437002
6.  The effector domain of Rab6, plus a highly hydrophobic C terminus, is required for Golgi apparatus localization. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1994;14(1):744-758.
C-terminal lipid modifications are essential for the interaction of Ras-related proteins with membranes. While all Ras proteins are farnesylated and some palmitoylated, the majority of other Ras-related proteins are geranylgeranylated. One such protein, Rab6, is associated with the Golgi apparatus and has a C-terminal CXC motif that is geranylgeranylated on both cysteines. We show here that farnesylation alone cannot substitute for geranylgeranylation in targeting Rab6 to the Golgi apparatus and that whereas Ras proteins that are farnesylated and palmitoylated are targeted to the plasma membrane, mutant Rab proteins that are both farnesylated and palmitoylated associate with the Golgi apparatus. Using chimeric Ras-Rab proteins, we find that there are sequences in the N-terminal 71 amino acids of Rab6 which are required for Golgi complex localization and show that these sequences comprise or include the effector domain. The C-terminal hypervariable domain is not essential for the Golgi complex targeting of Rab6 but is required to prevent prenylated and palmitoylated Rab6 from localizing to the plasma membrane. Functional analysis of these mutant Rab6 proteins in Saccharomyces cerevisiae shows that wild-type Rab6 and C-terminal mutant Rab6 proteins which localize to the Golgi apparatus in mammalian cells can complement the temperature-sensitive phenotype of ypt6 null mutants. Interestingly, therefore, the C-terminal hypervariable domain of Rab6 is not required for this protein to function in S. cerevisiae.
PMCID: PMC358423  PMID: 8264642
7.  Properties of Rab5 N-terminal domain dictate prenylation of C-terminal cysteines. 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  1995;6(1):71-85.
Rab5 is a Ras-related GTP-binding protein that is post-translationally modified by prenylation. We report here that an N-terminal domain contained within the first 22 amino acids of Rab5 is critical for efficient geranylgeranylation of the protein's C-terminal cysteines. This domain is immediately upstream from the "phosphate binding loop" common to all GTP-binding proteins and contains a highly conserved sequence recognized among members of the Rab family, referred to here as the YXYLFK motif. A truncation mutant that lacks this domain (Rab5(23-215) fails to become prenylated. However, a chimeric peptide with the conserved motif replacing cognate Rab5 sequence (MAYDYLFKRab5(23-215) does become post-translationally modified, demonstrating that the presence of this simple six amino acid N-terminal element enables prenylation at Rab5's C-terminus. H-Ras/Rab5 chimeras that include the conserved YXYLFK motif at the N-terminus do not become prenylated, indicating that, while this element may be necessary for prenylation of Rab proteins, it alone is not sufficient to confer properties to a heterologous protein to enable substrate recognition by the Rab geranylgeranyl transferase. Deletion analysis and studies of point mutants further reveal that the lysine residue of the YXYLFK motif is an absolute requirement to enable geranylgeranylation of Rab proteins. Functional studies support the idea that this domain is not required for guanine nucleotide binding since prenylation-defective mutants still bind GDP and are protected from protease digestion in the presence of GTP gamma S. We conclude that the mechanism of Rab geranylgeranylation involves key elements of the protein's tertiary structure including a conserved N-terminal amino acid motif (YXYLFK) that incorporates a critical lysine residue.
PMCID: PMC275815  PMID: 7749197
8.  Phosphonocarboxylates Inhibit the Second Geranylgeranyl Addition by Rab Geranylgeranyl Transferase* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2009;284(11):6861-6868.
Rab geranylgeranyl transferase (RGGT) catalyzes the post-translational geranylgeranyl (GG) modification of (usually) two C-terminal cysteines in Rab GTPases. Here we studied the mechanism of the Rab geranylgeranylation reaction by bisphosphonate analogs in which one phosphonate group is replaced by a carboxylate (phosphonocarboxylate, PC). The phosphonocarboxylates used were 3-PEHPC, which was previously reported, and 2-hydroxy-3-imidazo[1,2-a]pyridin-3-yl-2-phosphonopropionic acid ((+)-3-IPEHPC), a >25-fold more potent related compound as measured by both IC50 and Ki.(+)-3-IPEHPC behaves as a mixed-type inhibitor with respect to GG pyrophosphate (GGPP) and an uncompetitive inhibitor with respect to Rab substrates. We propose that phosphonocarboxylates prevent only the second GG transfer onto Rabs based on the following evidence. First, geranylgeranylation of Rab proteins ending with a single cysteine motif such as CAAX, is not affected by the inhibitors, either in vitro or in vivo. Second, the addition of an -AAX sequence onto Rab-CC proteins protects the substrate from inhibition by the inhibitors. Third, we demonstrate directly that in the presence of (+)-3-IPEHPC, Rab-CC and Rab-CXC proteins are modified by only a single GG addition. The presence of (+)-3-IPEHPC resulted in a preference for the Rab N-terminal cysteine to be modified first, suggesting an order of cysteine geranylgeranylation in RGGT catalysis. Our results further suggest that the inhibitor binds to a site distinct from the GGPP-binding site on RGGT. We suggest that phosphonocarboxylate inhibitors bind to a GG-cysteine binding site adjacent to the active site, which is necessary to align the mono-GG-Rab for the second GG addition. These inhibitors may represent a novel therapeutic approach in Rab-mediated diseases.
PMCID: PMC2652301  PMID: 19074143
9.  Rapid degradation of dominant-negative Rab27 proteins in vivo precludes their use in transgenic mouse models 
BMC Cell Biology  2002;3:26.
Transgenic mice have proven to be a powerful system to study normal and pathological gene functions. Here we describe an attempt to generate a transgenic mouse model for choroideremia (CHM), a slow-onset X-linked retinal degeneration caused by mutations in the Rab Escort Protein-1 (REP1) gene. REP1 is part of the Rab geranylgeranylation machinery, a modification that is essential for Rab function in membrane traffic. The loss of REP1 in CHM patients may trigger retinal degeneration through its effects on Rab proteins. We have previously reported that Rab27a is the Rab most affected in CHM lymphoblasts and hypothesised that the selective dysfunction of Rab27a (and possibly a few other Rab GTPases) plays an essential role in the retinal degenerative process.
To investigate this hypothesis, we generated several lines of dominant-negative, constitutively-active and wild-type Rab27a (and Rab27b) transgenic mice whose expression was driven either by the pigment cell-specific tyrosinase promoter or the ubiquitous β-actin promoter. High levels of mRNA and protein were observed in transgenic lines expressing wild-type or constitutively active Rab27a and Rab27b. However, only modest levels of transgenic protein were expressed. Pulse-chase experiments suggest that the dominant-negative proteins, but not the constitutively-active or wild type proteins, are rapidly degraded. Consistently, no significant phenotype was observed in our transgenic lines. Coat-colour was normal, indicating normal Rab27a activity. Retinal function as determined by fundoscopy, angiography, electroretinography and histology was also normal.
We suggest that the instability of the dominant-negative mutant Rab27 proteins in vivo precludes the use of this approach to generate mouse models of disease caused by Rab27 GTPases.
PMCID: PMC137576  PMID: 12401133
10.  Functional Cross-Talk between Rab14 and Rab4 through a Dual Effector, RUFY1/Rabip4 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(15):2746-2755.
Rab14 binds in a GTP-dependent manner to RUFY1/Rabip4, which had been originally identified as a Rab4 effector. We suggest that Rab14 and Rab4 act sequentially; Rab14 is required for recruitment of RUFY1 onto endosomes and subsequent RUFY1 interaction with Rab4 may allow endosomal tethering and fusion.
The small GTPase Rab14 localizes to early endosomes and the trans-Golgi network, but its cellular functions on endosomes and its functional relationship with other endosomal Rab proteins are poorly understood. Here, we report that Rab14 binds in a GTP-dependent manner to RUFY1/Rabip4, which had been originally identified as a Rab4 effector. Rab14 colocalizes well with Rab4 on peripheral endosomes. Depletion of Rab14, but not Rab4, causes dissociation of RUFY1 from endosomal membranes. Coexpression of RUFY1 with either Rab14 or Rab4 induces clustering and enlargement of endosomes, whereas a RUFY1 mutant lacking the Rab4-binding region does not induce a significant morphological change in the endosomal structures even when coexpressed with Rab14 or Rab4. These findings suggest that Rab14 and Rab4 act sequentially, together with RUFY1; Rab14 is required for recruitment of RUFY1 onto endosomal membranes, and subsequent RUFY1 interaction with Rab4 may allow endosomal tethering and fusion. Depletion of Rab14 or RUFY1, as well as Rab4, inhibits efficient recycling of endocytosed transferrin, suggesting that Rab14 and Rab4 regulate endosomal functions through cooperative interactions with their dual effector, RUFY1.
PMCID: PMC2912359  PMID: 20534812
11.  Plasmodium Rab5b is secreted to the cytoplasmic face of the tubovesicular network in infected red blood cells together with N-acylated adenylate kinase 2 
Malaria Journal  2016;15:323.
Rab5 GTPase regulates membrane trafficking between the plasma membrane and endosomes and harbours a conserved C-terminal isoprenyl modification that is necessary for membrane recruitment. Plasmodium falciparum encodes three Rab5 isotypes, and one of these, Rab5b (PfRab5b), lacks the C-terminal modification but possesses the N-terminal myristoylation motif. PfRab5b was reported to localize to the parasite periphery. However, the trafficking pathway regulated by PfRab5b is unknown.
A complementation analysis of Rab5 isotypes was performed in Plasmodium berghei. A constitutively active PfRab5b mutant was expressed under the regulation of a ligand-dependent destabilization domain (DD)-tag system in P. falciparum. The localization of PfRab5b was evaluated after removing the ligand followed by selective permeabilization of the membrane with different detergents. Furthermore, P. falciparum N-terminally myristoylated adenylate kinase 2 (PfAK2) was co-expressed with PfRab5b, and trafficking of PfAK2 to the parasitophorous vacuole membrane was examined by confocal microscopy.
PfRab5b complemented the function of PbRab5b, however, the conventional C-terminally isoprenylated Rab5, PbRab5a or PbRab5c, did not. The constitutively active PfRab5b mutant localized to the cytosol of the parasite and the tubovesicular network (TVN), a region that extends from the parasitophorous vacuole membrane (PVM) in infected red blood cells (iRBCs). By removing the DD-ligand, parasite cytosolic PfRab5b signal disappeared and a punctate structure adjacent to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and parasite periphery accumulated. The peripheral PfRab5b was sensitive to extracellular proteolysis after treatment with streptolysin O, which selectively permeabilizes the red blood cell plasma membrane, indicating that PfRab5b localized on the iRBC cytoplasmic face of the TVN. Transport of PfAK2 to the PVM was abrogated by overexpression of PfRab5b, and PfAK2 accumulated in the punctate structure together with PfRab5b.
N-myristoylated Plasmodium Rab5b plays a role that is distinct from that of conventional mammalian Rab5 isotypes. PfRab5b localizes to a compartment close to the ER, translocated to the lumen of the organelle, and co-localizes with PfAK2. PfRab5b and PfAK2 are then transported to the TVN, and PfRab5b localizes on the iRBC cytoplasmic face of TVN. These data demonstrate that PfRab5b is transported from the parasite cytosol to TVN together with N-myristoylated PfAK2 via an uncharacterized membrane-trafficking pathway.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12936-016-1377-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4912828  PMID: 27316546
Membrane trafficking; Rab5b GTPase; Myristoylation; Palmitoylation; Adenylate kinase; Parasitophorous vacuole membrane; Tubovesicular network
12.  TBC-2 Regulates RAB-5/RAB-7-mediated Endosomal Trafficking in Caenorhabditis elegans 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(13):2285-2296.
The RAB-5 and RAB-7 GTPases regulate endosome to lysosome trafficking. Here, we show that Caenorhabditis elegans TBC-2 functions as a RAB-5 GAP. TBC-2 colocalizes with RAB-7 on late endosomes, and requires RAB-7 for membrane localization where TBC-2 could function to antagonize RAB-5 activity during early to late endosome maturation.
During endosome maturation the early endosomal Rab5 GTPase is replaced with the late endosomal Rab7 GTPase. It has been proposed that active Rab5 can recruit and activate Rab7, which in turn could inactivate and remove Rab5. However, many of the Rab5 and Rab7 regulators that mediate endosome maturation are not known. Here, we identify Caenorhabditis elegans TBC-2, a conserved putative Rab GTPase-activating protein (GAP), as a regulator of endosome to lysosome trafficking in several tissues. We show that tbc-2 mutant animals accumulate enormous RAB-7–positive late endosomes in the intestine containing refractile material. RAB-5, RAB-7, and components of the homotypic fusion and vacuole protein sorting (HOPS) complex, a RAB-7 effector/putative guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF), are required for the tbc-2(−) intestinal phenotype. Expression of activated RAB-5 Q78L in the intestine phenocopies the tbc-2(−) large late endosome phenotype in a RAB-7 and HOPS complex-dependent manner. TBC-2 requires the catalytic arginine-finger for function in vivo and displays the strongest GAP activity on RAB-5 in vitro. However, TBC-2 colocalizes primarily with RAB-7 on late endosomes and requires RAB-7 for membrane localization. Our data suggest that TBC-2 functions on late endosomes to inactivate RAB-5 during endosome maturation.
PMCID: PMC2893991  PMID: 20462958
13.  RabGEFs are a major determinant for specific Rab membrane targeting 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2013;200(3):287-300.
Analysis of three different Rab-RabGEF pairs reveals that RabGEFs contain the minimal targeting machinery for recruiting Rabs to specific membranes.
Eukaryotic cells critically depend on the correct regulation of intracellular vesicular trafficking to transport biological material. The Rab subfamily of small guanosine triphosphatases controls these processes by acting as a molecular on/off switch. To fulfill their function, active Rab proteins need to localize to intracellular membranes via posttranslationally attached geranylgeranyl lipids. Each member of the manifold Rab family localizes specifically to a distinct membrane, but it is unclear how this specific membrane recruitment is achieved. Here, we demonstrate that Rab-activating guanosine diphosphate/guanosine triphosphate exchange factors (GEFs) display the minimal targeting machinery for recruiting Rabs from the cytosol to the correct membrane using the Rab-GEF pairs Rab5A–Rabex-5, Rab1A-DrrA, and Rab8-Rabin8 as model systems. Specific mistargeting of Rabex-5/DrrA/Rabin8 to mitochondria led to catalytic recruitment of Rab5A/Rab1A/Rab8A in a time-dependent manner that required the catalytic activity of the GEF. Therefore, RabGEFs are major determinants for specific Rab membrane targeting.
PMCID: PMC3563681  PMID: 23382462
14.  Small GTPases Rab8a and Rab11a Are Dispensable for Rhodopsin Transport in Mouse Photoreceptors 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(8):e0161236.
Rab11a and Rab8a are ubiquitous small GTPases shown as required for rhodopsin transport in Xenopus laevis and zebrafish photoreceptors by dominant negative (dn) disruption of function. Here, we generated retina-specific Rab11a (retRab11a) and Rab8a (retRab8a) single and double knockout mice to explore the consequences in mouse photoreceptors. Rhodopsin and other outer segment (OS) membrane proteins targeted correctly to OS and electroretinogram (ERG) responses in all three mutant mouse lines were indistinguishable from wild-type (WT). Further, AAV (adeno-associated virus)-mediated expression of dnRab11b in retRab11a-/- retina, or expression of dnRab8b in retRab8a-/- retina did not cause OS protein mislocalization. Finally, a retRab8a-/- retina injected at one month of age with AAVs expressing dnRab11a, dnRab11b, dnRab8b, and dnRab10 (four dn viruses on Rab8a-/- background) and harvested three months later exhibited normal OS protein localization. In contrast to results obtained with dnRab GTPases in Xenopus and zebrafish, mouse Rab11a and Rab8a are dispensable for proper rhodopsin and outer segment membrane protein targeting. Absence of phenotype after expression of four dn Rab GTPases in a Rab8a-/- retina suggests that Rab8b and Rab11b paralogs maybe dispensable as well. Our data thus demonstrate significant interspecies variation in photoreceptor membrane protein and rhodopsin trafficking.
PMCID: PMC4987053  PMID: 27529348
15.  Impaired prenylation of Rab GTPases in the gunmetal mouse causes defects in bone cell function 
Small GTPases  2011;2(3):131-142.
Vesicular trafficking is crucial for bone resorption by osteoclasts, in particular for formation of the ruffled border membrane and for removal of the resultant bone degradation products by transcytosis. These processes are regulated by Rab family GTPases, whose activity is dependent on post-translational prenylation by Rab geranylgeranyl transferase (RGGT). Specific pharmacological inhibition of RGGT inhibits bone resorption in vitro and in vivo, illustrating the importance of Rab prenylation for osteoclast function. The gunmetal (gm/gm) mouse bears a mutation in the catalytic subunit of RGGT, causing a loss of 75% of the activity of this enzyme and hence hypoprenylation of several Rabs in melanocytes, platelets and cytotoxic T cells. We have now found that prenylation of several Rab proteins is also defective in gm/gm osteoclasts. Moreover, while osteoclast formation and cytoskeletal polarization occurs normally, gm/gm osteoclasts exhibit a substantial reduction in resorptive activity in vitro compared with osteoclasts from +/gm mice, which do not have a prenylation defect. Surprisingly, rather than the osteosclerosis that would be expected to result from defective osteoclast function in vivo, gm/gm mice exhibited a slightly lower bone mass than +/gm mice, indicating that defects in other cell types, such as osteoblasts, in which hypoprenylation of Rabs was also detected, may contribute to the phenotype. However, gm/gm mice were partially protected from ovariectomy-induced bone loss, suggesting that levels of Rab prenylation in gm/gm osteoclasts may be sufficient to maintain normal physiological levels of activity, but not pathological levels of bone resorption in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3136943  PMID: 21776414
osteoclast; bone resorption; bone; Rab; small GTPase; prenylation; gunmetal
16.  Rab-geranylgeranyl transferase regulates glucose-stimulated insulin secretion from pancreatic β cells 
Islets  2012;4(5):354-358.
A growing body of evidence implicates essential roles for small molecular weight G-proteins (e.g., Cdc42, Rac1, Arf6 and Rab3A and Rab27A) in islet β-cell function including glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS). One of the known mechanisms for optimal activation of small G-proteins involves post-translational prenylation, which is mediated by farnesyltransferase (FTase) and geranylgeranyl transferases (GGTases I and II). The FTase catalyzes incorporation of a 15-carbon farnesyl group while the GGTase mediates incorporation of a 20-carbon geranylgeranyl group into the C-terminal cysteines of G-proteins. The FTase, GGTase I and GGTase II prenylate Ras, Cdc42/Rac1, and Rab G-proteins, respectively. While considerable evidence exists on FTase/GGTase I-mediated regulation of GSIS, very little is known about GGTase II (also referred to as Rab GGTase; RGGT) and its regulatory proteins in the cascade of events leading to GSIS. Herein, we provide the first immunological evidence to suggest expression of α- and β-subunits of RGGT in clonal INS 832/13 β-cells, normal rat islets and human islets. Furthermore, Rab escort protein1 (REP1), which has been shown to be critical for prenylation of Rab G-proteins, is also expressed in these cells. Furthermore, evidence is presented to suggest that siRNA-mediated knockdown of α- or β-subunits of RGGT and REP1 markedly attenuates GSIS in INS 832/13 cells. These findings provide the first evidence in support of key roles for RGGT and its regulatory proteins in GSIS.
PMCID: PMC3524143  PMID: 23114750
Geranylgeranylation; Rab G-proteins; Rab escort proteins; insulin secretion; pancreatic β-cells
17.  Rab11 Is Required for Trans-Golgi Network–to–Plasma Membrane Transport and a Preferential Target for GDP Dissociation Inhibitor 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  1998;9(11):3241-3257.
The rab11 GTPase has been localized to both the Golgi and recycling endosomes; however, its Golgi-associated function has remained obscure. In this study, rab11 function in exocytic transport was analyzed by using two independent means to perturb its activity. First, expression of the dominant interfering rab11S25N mutant protein led to a significant inhibition of the cell surface transport of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) G protein and caused VSV G protein to accumulate in the Golgi. On the other hand, the expression of wild-type rab11 or the activating rab11Q70L mutant had no adverse effect on VSV G transport. Next, the membrane association of rab11, which is crucial for its function, was perturbed by modest increases in GDP dissociation inhibitor (GDI) levels. This led to selective inhibition of the trans-Golgi network to cell surface delivery, whereas endoplasmic reticulum–to–Golgi and intra-Golgi transport were largely unaffected. The transport inhibition was reversed specifically by coexpression of wild-type rab11 with GDI. Under the same conditions two other exocytic rab proteins, rab2 and rab8, remained membrane bound, and the transport steps regulated by these rab proteins were unaffected. Neither mutant rab11S25N nor GDI overexpression had any impact on the cell surface delivery of influenza hemagglutinin. These data show that functional rab11 is critical for the export of a basolateral marker but not an apical marker from the trans-Golgi network and pinpoint rab11 as a sensitive target for inhibition by excess GDI.
PMCID: PMC25617  PMID: 9802909
18.  Rab7 Activation by Growth Factor Withdrawal Contributes to the Induction of Apoptosis 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2009;20(12):2831-2840.
The Rab7 GTPase promotes membrane fusion reactions between late endosomes and lysosomes. In previous studies, we demonstrated that Rab7 inactivation blocks growth factor withdrawal-induced cell death. These results led us to hypothesize that growth factor withdrawal activates Rab7. Here, we show that growth factor deprivation increased both the fraction of Rab7 that was associated with cellular membranes and the percentage of Rab7 bound to guanosine triphosphate (GTP). Moreover, expressing a constitutively GTP-bound mutant of Rab7, Rab7-Q67L, was sufficient to trigger cell death even in the presence of growth factors. This activated Rab7 mutant was also able to reverse the growth factor-independent cell survival conferred by protein kinase C (PKC) δ inhibition. PKCδ is one of the most highly induced proteins after growth factor withdrawal and contributes to the induction of apoptosis. To evaluate whether PKCδ regulates Rab7, we first examined lysosomal morphology in cells with reduced PKCδ activity. Consistent with a potential role as a Rab7 activator, blocking PKCδ function caused profound lysosomal fragmentation comparable to that observed when Rab7 was directly inhibited. Interestingly, PKCδ inhibition fragmented the lysosome without decreasing Rab7-GTP levels. Taken together, these results suggest that Rab7 activation by growth factor withdrawal contributes to the induction of apoptosis and that Rab7-dependent fusion reactions may be targeted by signaling pathways that limit growth factor-independent cell survival.
PMCID: PMC2695791  PMID: 19386765
19.  Rab27a Targeting to Melanosomes Requires Nucleotide Exchange but Not Effector Binding 
Traffic (Copenhagen, Denmark)  2011;12(8):1056-1066.
Rab GTPases are important determinants of organelle identity and regulators of vesicular transport pathways. Consequently, each Rab occupies a highly specific subcellular localization. However, the precise mechanisms governing Rab targeting remain unclear. Guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs), putative membrane-resident targeting factors and effector binding have all been implicated as critical regulators of Rab targeting. Here, we address these issues using Rab27a targeting to melanosomes as a model system. Rab27a regulates motility of lysosome-related organelles and secretory granules. Its effectors have been characterized extensively, and we have identified Rab3GEP as the non-redundant Rab27a GEF in melanocytes (Figueiredo AC et al. Rab3GEP is the non-redundant guanine nucleotide exchange factor for Rab27a in melanocytes. J Biol Chem 2008;283:23209–23216). Using Rab27a mutants that show impaired binding to representatives of all four Rab27a effector subgroups, we present evidence that effector binding is not essential for targeting of Rab27a to melanosomes. In contrast, we observed that knockdown of Rab3GEP resulted in mis-targeting of Rab27a, suggesting that Rab3GEP activity is required for correct targeting of Rab27a. However, the identification of Rab27a mutants that undergo efficient GDP/GTP exchange in the presence of Rab3GEP in vitro but are mis-targeted in a cellular context indicates that nucleotide loading is not the sole determinant of subcellular targeting of Rab27a. Our data support a model in which exchange activity, but not effector binding, represents one essential factor that contributes to membrane targeting of Rab proteins.
PMCID: PMC3509405  PMID: 21554507
effectors; guanine nucleotide exchange factor; melanosome; Rab; targeting
20.  Multiple domain insertions and losses in the evolution of the Rab prenylation complex 
Rab proteins are regulators of vesicular trafficking, requiring a lipid modification for proper function, prenylation of C-terminal cysteines. This is catalysed by a complex of a catalytic heterodimer (Rab Geranylgeranyl Transferase – RabGGTase) and an accessory protein (Rab Escort Protein. REP). Components of this complex display domain insertions relative to paralogous proteins. The function of these inserted domains is unclear.
We profiled the domain architecture of the components of the Rab prenylation complex in evolution. We identified the orthologues of the components of the Rab prenylation machinery in 43 organisms, representing the crown eukaryotic groups. We characterize in detail the domain structure of all these components and the phylogenetic relationships between the individual domains.
We found different domain insertions in different taxa, in α-subunits of RGGTase and REP. Our results suggest that there were multiple insertions, expansions and contractions in the evolution of this prenylation complex.
PMCID: PMC1994686  PMID: 17705859
21.  Role of the Rab3A-binding domain in targeting of rabphilin-3A to vesicle membranes of PC12 cells. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1996;16(9):4985-4995.
Rab3A is a small GTPase implicated in the docking of secretory vesicles in neuroendocrine cells. A putative downstream target for Rab3A, rabphilin-3A, is located exclusively on secretory vesicle membranes. It contains near its C terminus two C2 domains that bind Ca2+ in a phospholipid-dependent manner and an N-terminal, Rab3A-binding domain that includes a Cys-rich region. We have determined that the Cys-rich domain binds two Zn2+ ions and is necessary but not sufficient for efficient binding of rabphilin to Rab3A. A minimal Rab3A-binding domain consists of residues 45 to 170 of rabphilin. HA1-tagged Rab3A and a green fluorescent protein (GFP)-rabphilin fusion were used to examine the roles of Rab3A and of rabphilin domains in the subcellular localization of these proteins. A Rab3A mutant (T54A) that does not bind rabphifin in vitro colocalized with the GFP-rabphilin fusion, indicating that Rab3A targeting is independent of its interaction with rabphilin. Deletion of the C2 domains of rabphilin reduced membrane association of GFP-rabphilin but did not cause mistargeting of the membrane-associated fraction. However, disruption of the zinc fingers, which drastically reduced Rab3A binding, did not reduce membrane association. These results suggest that the C2 domains are required for efficient membrane attachment of rabphilin in PC12 cells and that Rab3A binding may act to target the protein to the correct membrane.
PMCID: PMC231500  PMID: 8756657
22.  Rab27a Is Required for Regulated Secretion in Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2001;152(4):825-834.
Rab27a activity is affected in several mouse models of human disease including Griscelli (ashen mice) and Hermansky-Pudlak (gunmetal mice) syndromes. A loss of function mutation occurs in the Rab27a gene in ashen (ash), whereas in gunmetal (gm) Rab27a dysfunction is secondary to a mutation in the α subunit of Rab geranylgeranyl transferase, an enzyme required for prenylation and activation of Rabs. We show here that Rab27a is normally expressed in cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs), but absent in ashen homozygotes (ash/ash). Cytotoxicity and secretion assays show that ash/ash CTLs are unable to kill target cells or to secrete granzyme A and hexosaminidase. By immunofluorescence and electron microscopy, we show polarization but no membrane docking of ash/ash lytic granules at the immunological synapse. In gunmetal CTLs, we show underprenylation and redistribution of Rab27a to the cytosol, implying reduced activity. Gunmetal CTLs show a reduced ability to kill target cells but retain the ability to secrete hexosaminidase and granzyme A. However, only some of the granules polarize to the immunological synapse, and many remain dispersed around the periphery of the CTLs. These results demonstrate that Rab27a is required in a final secretory step and that other Rab proteins also affected in gunmetal are likely to be involved in polarization of the granules to the immunological synapse.
PMCID: PMC2195783  PMID: 11266472
Rab27a; cytotoxic T lymphocyte; secretory lysosomes; immunological synapse; Arp2/3
23.  Molecular Evolution of the Rab-Escort-Protein/Guanine-Nucleotide-Dissociation-Inhibitor Superfamily 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2003;14(9):3857-3867.
Prenylation of Rab GTPases regulating vesicle traffic by Rab geranylgeranyltransferase (RabGGTase) requires a complex formed by the association of newly synthesized Rab proteins with Rab-escort-protein (REP), the choroideremia-gene-product that is mutated in disease, leading to loss of vision. After delivery to the membrane by the REP–Rab complex, subsequent recycling to the cytosol requires the REP-related guanine-nucleotide-dissociation-inhibitor (GDI). Although REP and GDI share common Rab-binding properties, GDI cannot assist in Rab prenylation and REP cannot retrieve Rab proteins from the membranes. We have now isolated REP mutant proteins that are able to partially function as both REP and GDI. These results provide molecular insight into the functional and evolutionary organization of the REP/GDI superfamily.
PMCID: PMC196578  PMID: 12972569
24.  A Novel Aberrant Splice Site Mutation in RAB23 Leads to an Eight Nucleotide Deletion in the mRNA and Is Responsible for Carpenter Syndrome in a Consanguineous Emirati Family 
Molecular Syndromology  2012;3(6):255-261.
Carpenter syndrome is caused by mutations in the RAB23 gene that encodes a small GTPase of the Rab subfamily of proteins. Rab proteins are known to be involved in the regulation of cellular trafficking and signal transduction. Currently, only few mutations in RAB23 have been reported in patients with Carpenter syndrome. In this paper, we report the clinical features, molecular and functional analysis of 2 children from an Emirati consanguineous family with this syndrome. The affected children exhibit the typical features including craniosynostosis, typical facial appearance, polysyndactyly, and obesity. Molecular analysis of the RAB23 gene revealed a homozygous mutation affecting the first nucleotide of the acceptor splice site of exon 5 (c.482-1G>A). This mutation affects the authentic mRNA splicing and activates a cryptic acceptor site within exon 5. Thus, the erroneous splicing results in an eight nucleotide deletion, followed by a frameshift and premature termination codon at position 161 (p.V161fsX3). Due to the loss of the C-terminally prenylatable cysteine residue, the truncated protein will probably fail to associate with the target cellular membranes due to the absence of the necessary lipid modification. The p.V161fsX3 extends the spectrum of RAB23 mutations and points to the crucial role of prenylation in the pathogenesis of Carpenter syndrome within this family.
PMCID: PMC3569107  PMID: 23599695
Carpenter syndrome; GTPase; Mutation; Prenylation; RAB23
25.  Evidence for a recycling role for Rab7 in regulating a late step in endocytosis and in retention of lysosomal enzymes in Dictyostelium discoideum. 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  1997;8(7):1343-1360.
The mammalian small molecular weight GTPase Rab7 (Ypt7 in yeast) has been implicated in regulating membrane traffic at postinternalization steps along the endosomal pathway. A cDNA encoding a protein 85% identical at the amino acid level to mammalian Rab7 has been cloned from Dictyostelium discoideum. Subcellular fractionation and immunofluorescence microscopy indicated that Rab7 was enriched in lysosomes, postlysosomes, and maturing phagosomes. Cell lines were generated that overexposed Rab7 wild-type (WT), Rab7 Q67L (constitutively active form), and Rab7 T22N (dominant negative form) proteins. The Rab7 T22N cell line internalized fluid phase markers and latex beads (phagocytosis) at one-third the rate of control cells, whereas Rab7 WT and Rab7 Q67L cell lines were normal in uptake rates but exocytosed fluid phase faster than control cells. In contrast, fluid phase markers resided in acidic compartments for longer periods of time and were more slowly exocytosed from Rab7 T22N cells as compared with control cells. Light microscopy indicated that Rab7-expressing cell lines contained morphologically altered endosomal compartments. Compared with control cells, Rab7 WT- and Rab7 Q67L-expressing cells contained a reduced number of vesicles, the size of postlysosomes (> 2.5 microns) and an increased number of smaller vesicles, many of which were nonacidic; in control cells, > 90% of the smaller vesicles were acidic. In contrast, Rab7 T22N cells contained an increased proportion of large acidic vesicles relative to nonacidic vesicles. Radiolabel pulse-chase experiments indicated that all of the cell lines processed and targeted lysosomal alpha-mannosidase normally, indicating the lack of a significant role for Rab7 in the targeting pathway; however, retention of mature lysosomal hydrolases was affected in Rab7 WT and Rab7 T22N cell lines. Contrary to the results observed for the fluid phase efflux experiments, Rab7 T22N cells oversecreted alpha-mannosidase, whereas Rab7 WT cells retained this hydrolase as compared with control cells. These data support a model that Rab7 may regulate retrograde transport of lysosomal enzymes and the V-type H(+)-ATPase from postlysosomes to lysosomes coupled with the efficient release of fluid phase from cells.
PMCID: PMC276157  PMID: 9243512

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