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J Biol Chem. 2012 Mar 16;287(12):8963-73. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.314385. Epub 2012 Jan 30.

Small GTPase Rab17 regulates dendritic morphogenesis and postsynaptic development of hippocampal neurons.

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  • 1Laboratory of Membrane Trafficking Mechanisms, Department of Developmental Biology and Neurosciences, Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi, Japan.


Neurons are compartmentalized into two morphologically, molecularly, and functionally distinct domains: axons and dendrites, and precise targeting and localization of proteins within these domains are critical for proper neuronal functions. It has been reported that several members of the Rab family small GTPases that are key mediators of membrane trafficking, regulate axon-specific trafficking events, but little has been elucidated regarding the molecular mechanisms that underlie dendrite-specific membrane trafficking. Here we show that Rab17 regulates dendritic morphogenesis and postsynaptic development in mouse hippocampal neurons. Rab17 is localized at dendritic growth cones, shafts, filopodia, and mature spines, but it is mostly absent in axons. We also found that Rab17 mediates dendrite growth and branching and that it does not regulate axon growth or branching. Moreover, shRNA-mediated knockdown of Rab17 expression resulted in a dramatically reduced number of dendritic spines, probably because of impaired filopodia formation. These findings have revealed the first molecular link between membrane trafficking and dendritogenesis.

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