Rab proteins and endocytic trafficking: potential targets for therapeutic intervention

Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2003 Nov 14;55(11):1421-37. doi: 10.1016/j.addr.2003.07.009.


Rab GTPases serve as master regulators of vesicular membrane transport on both the exo- and endocytic pathways. In their active forms, rab proteins serve in cargo selection and as scaffolds for the sequential assembly of effectors requisite for vesicle budding, cytoskeletal transport, and target membrane fusion. Rab protein function is in turn tightly regulated at the level of protein expression, localization, membrane association, and activation. Alterations in the rab GTPases and associated regulatory proteins or effectors have increasingly been implicated in causing human disease. Some diseases such as those resulting in bleeding and pigmentation disorders (Griscelli syndrome), mental retardation, neuropathy (Charcot-Marie-Tooth), kidney disease (tuberous sclerosis), and blindness (choroideremia) arise from direct loss of function mutations of rab GTPases or associated regulatory molecules. In contrast, in a number of cancers (prostate, liver, breast) as well as vascular, lung, and thyroid diseases, the overexpression of select rab GTPases have been tightly correlated with disease pathogenesis. Unique therapeutic opportunities lie ahead in developing strategies that target rab proteins and modulate the endocytic pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Endocytosis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / drug therapy
  • Lung Diseases / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Vascular Diseases / drug therapy
  • Vascular Diseases / metabolism
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / biosynthesis
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins