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Cell. 2004 Sep 3;118(5):607-17.

Structure, exchange determinants, and family-wide rab specificity of the tandem helical bundle and Vps9 domains of Rabex-5.

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  • 1Program in Molecular Medicine and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01605, USA.


The Rab5 GTPase, an essential regulator of endocytosis and endosome biogenesis, is activated by guanine-nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) that contain a Vps9 domain. Here, we show that the catalytic core of the Rab GEF Rabex-5 has a tandem architecture consisting of a Vps9 domain stabilized by an indispensable helical bundle. A family-wide analysis of Rab specificity demonstrates high selectivity for Rab5 subfamily GTPases. Conserved exchange determinants map to a common surface of the Vps9 domain, which recognizes invariant aromatic residues in the switch regions of Rab GTPases and selects for the Rab5 subfamily by requiring a small nonacidic residue preceding a critical phenylalanine in the switch I region. These and other observations reveal unexpected similarity with the Arf exchange site in the Sec7 domain.

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