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Biochem Soc Trans. 2011 Oct;39(5):1202-6. doi: 10.1042/BST0391202.

Rab GTPases and microtubule motors.

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Molecular Cell Biology Laboratory, Department of Biochemistry, BioSciences Institute, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.


Rab proteins are a family of small GTPases which, since their initial identification in the late 1980s, have emerged as master regulators of all stages of intracellular trafficking processes in eukaryotic cells. Rabs cycle between distinct conformations that are dependent on their guanine-nucleotide-bound status. When active (GTP-bound), Rabs are distributed to the cytosolic face of specific membranous compartments where they recruit downstream effector proteins. Rab-effector complexes then execute precise intracellular trafficking steps, which, in many cases, include vesicle motility. Microtubule-based kinesin and cytoplasmic dynein motor complexes are prominent among the classes of known Rab effector proteins. Additionally, many Rabs associate with microtubule-based motors via effectors that act as adaptor molecules that can simultaneously associate with the GTP-bound Rab and specific motor complexes. Thus, through association with motor complexes, Rab proteins can allow for membrane association and directional movement of various vesicular cargos along the microtubule cytoskeleton. In this mini-review, we highlight the expanding repertoire of Rab/microtubule motor protein interactions, and, in doing so, present an outline of the multiplicity of transport processes which result from such interactions.

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