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Mol Biol Cell. 2009 Feb;20(4):1223-40. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E08-07-0728. Epub 2008 Dec 24.

SPE-39 family proteins interact with the HOPS complex and function in lysosomal delivery.

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  • 1Graduate Program in Biochemistry, Cell, and Developmental Biology, Departments of *Biology and Cell Biology, and Department of Neurology, Center for Neurodegenerative Disease, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322.


Yeast and animal homotypic fusion and vacuole protein sorting (HOPS) complexes contain conserved subunits, but HOPS-mediated traffic in animals might require additional proteins. Here, we demonstrate that SPE-39 homologues, which are found only in animals, are present in RAB5-, RAB7-, and RAB11-positive endosomes where they play a conserved role in lysosomal delivery and probably function via their interaction with the core HOPS complex. Although Caenorhabditis elegans spe-39 mutants were initially identified as having abnormal vesicular biogenesis during spermatogenesis, we show that these mutants also have disrupted processing of endocytosed proteins in oocytes and coelomocytes. C. elegans SPE-39 interacts in vitro with both VPS33A and VPS33B, whereas RNA interference of VPS33B causes spe-39-like spermatogenesis defects. The human SPE-39 orthologue C14orf133 also interacts with VPS33 homologues and both coimmunoprecipitates and cosediments with other HOPS subunits. SPE-39 knockdown in cultured human cells altered the morphology of syntaxin 7-, syntaxin 8-, and syntaxin 13-positive endosomes. These effects occurred concomitantly with delayed mannose 6-phosphate receptor-mediated cathepsin D delivery and degradation of internalized epidermal growth factor receptors. Our findings establish that SPE-39 proteins are a previously unrecognized regulator of lysosomal delivery and that C. elegans spermatogenesis is an experimental system useful for identifying conserved regulators of metazoan lysosomal biogenesis.

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