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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 May 24;91(11):5061-5.

Rab5a is a common component of the apical and basolateral endocytic machinery in polarized epithelial cells.

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  • 1Centro di Endocrinologia ed Oncologia Sperimentale del Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche.


In nonpolarized cells, the small GTPase Rab5a is localized to the plasma membrane, clathrin-coated vesicles, and early endosomes. Rab5a is required for early endosome fusion in vitro and regulates transport between the plasma membrane and early endosomes, in vivo. In polarized epithelial cells endocytosis occurs from separate apical and basolateral plasma membrane domains. Internalized molecules are initially delivered to distinct apical or basolateral early endosomes. In vitro, apical early endosomes can readily fuse with one another but not with the basolateral endosomes and vice versa, thereby indicating that the apical and basolateral early endocytic pathways are controlled by distinct machineries. Here, we have investigated the localization and function of Rab5a in polarized epithelial cells. Confocal immunofluorescence microscopy on mouse kidney sections revealed association of the protein with the apical and basolateral plasma membrane domains and underlying structures. In polarized Madin-Darby canine kidney I cells, endogenous and overexpressed Rab5a have the same distribution. Moreover, overexpression of the protein causes a 2-fold increase in fluid-phase uptake from both domains of the cell, thus showing that Rab5a functions in apical and basolateral endocytosis. Our data indicate that the apical and basolateral endocytic machineries of epithelial cells share common regulatory components and that Rab5a per se is not sufficient to target endocytic vesicles to apical or basolateral early endosomes.

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