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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Aug 28;98(18):10238-43. Epub 2001 Aug 14.

Mutations in Mlph, encoding a member of the Rab effector family, cause the melanosome transport defects observed in leaden mice.

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Mouse Cancer Genetics Program, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, MD 21702, USA.


The d, ash, and ln coat color mutations provide a unique model system for the study of vesicle transport in mammals. All three mutant loci encode genes that are required for the polarized transport of melanosomes, the specialized, pigment-containing organelles of melanocytes, to the neighboring keratinocytes and eventually into coat hairs. Genetic studies suggest that these genes function in the same or overlapping pathways and are supported by biochemical studies showing that d encodes an actin-based melanosome transport motor, MyoVa, whereas ash encodes Rab27a, a protein that localizes to the melanosome and is postulated to serve as the MyoVa receptor. Here we show that ln encodes melanophilin (Mlph), a previously undescribed protein with homology to Rab effectors such as granuphilin, Slp3-a, and rabphilin-3A. Like all of these effectors, Mlph possesses two Zn(2+)-binding CX(2)CX(13,14)CX(2)C motifs and a short aromatic-rich amino acid region that is critical for Rab binding. However, Mlph does not contain the two Ca(2+)-binding C(2) domains found in these and other proteins involved in vesicle transport, suggesting that it represents a previously unrecognized class of Rab effectors. Collectively, our data show that Mlph is a critical component of the melanosome transport machinery and suggest that Mlph might function as part of a transport complex with Rab27a and MyoVa.

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