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J Biochem. 2012 Apr;151(4):343-51. doi: 10.1093/jb/mvs009. Epub 2012 Feb 9.

Role of Rab family GTPases and their effectors in melanosomal logistics.

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Laboratory of Membrane Trafficking Mechanisms, Department of Developmental Biology and Neurosciences, Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University, Aobayama, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi 980-8578, Japan.


Rab GTPases constitute a family of small GTPases that regulate a variety of membrane trafficking events in all eukaryotic cells by recruiting their specific effector molecules. Recent accumulating evidence indicates that members of the mammalian Rab small GTPase family are involved in certain physiological and pathological processes. In particular, functional impairments of specific Rab proteins, e.g. Rab38 and Rab27A, their regulators or their effectors cause pigmentation disorders in humans and coat colour variations in mice because such impairments cause defects in melanosomal logistics, i.e. defects in melanosome biogenesis and transport. Genetic and biochemical analyses of the gene products responsible for mammalian pigmentation disorders in the past decade have revealed that Rab-mediated endosomal transport systems and melanosome transport systems play crucial roles in the efficient darkening of mammalian hair and skin. In this article, we review current knowledge regarding melanosomal logistics, with particular focus on the roles of Rab small GTPases and their effectors.

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