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Mol Biol Cell. 1998 Jan;9(1):223-35.

The putative "switch 2" domain of the Ras-related GTPase, Rab1B, plays an essential role in the interaction with Rab escort protein.

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  • 1Weis Center for Research, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Danville 17822-2616, USA.


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 alpha2 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 alpha2 helix of Myc-tagged Rab1B prevented prenylation of the recombinant protein in cell-free assays, whereas mutations in the alpha3 and alpha4 helices did not. Additionally, upon transient expression in transfected HEK-293 cells, the Myc-Rab1B alpha2 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 alpha2 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 alpha2 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.

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