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Curr Biol. 2018 Apr 23;28(8):R471-R486. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.02.010.

Rab GTPases and Membrane Trafficking in Neurodegeneration.

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Division of Neurobiology, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.
Division of Neurobiology, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany; Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, USA.
Division of Neurobiology, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. Electronic address:


Defects in membrane trafficking are hallmarks of neurodegeneration. Rab GTPases are key regulators of membrane trafficking. Alterations of Rab GTPases, or the membrane compartments they regulate, are associated with virtually all neuronal activities in health and disease. The observation that many Rab GTPases are associated with neurodegeneration has proven a challenge in the quest for cause and effect. Neurodegeneration can be a direct consequence of a defect in membrane trafficking. Alternatively, changes in membrane trafficking may be secondary consequences or cellular responses. The secondary consequences and cellular responses, in turn, may protect, represent inconsequential correlates or function as drivers of pathology. Here, we attempt to disentangle the different roles of membrane trafficking in neurodegeneration by focusing on selected associations with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease and selected neuropathies. We provide an overview of current knowledge on Rab GTPase functions in neurons and review the associations of Rab GTPases with neurodegeneration with respect to the following classifications: primary cause, secondary cause driving pathology or secondary correlate. This analysis is devised to aid the interpretation of frequently observed membrane trafficking defects in neurodegeneration and facilitate the identification of true causes of pathology.

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