Trypanosoma brucei: TbRAB4 regulates membrane recycling and expression of surface proteins in procyclic forms

Exp Parasitol. 2005 Nov;111(3):160-71. doi: 10.1016/j.exppara.2005.07.005. Epub 2005 Sep 13.


TbRAB4 is the Trypanosoma brucei orthologue of the small GTPase Rab4, which is implicated in the control of early endocytosis and recycling processes. TbRAB4 is expressed constitutively in the procyclic and bloodstream stages suggesting an important function throughout the trypanosome life-cycle. Previous work from our laboratory has shown TbRAB4 to be essential in the bloodstream form. Induction of double-stranded TbRAB4 RNA expression leads to a specific reduction in TbRAB4 protein levels and inhibition of growth in procyclic form T. brucei, with alterations in uptake and recycling as measured with the fluorophore FM4-64. Trypanosomes overexpressing GTP-locked TbRAB4(QL) mutants exhibit significant perturbations of endocytic and recycling pathways as well as disruption of surface expression of GPI-anchored proteins. Most significantly, both the endogenous GPI-anchored procyclins and an ectopically expressed GPI-anchored protein, the variant surface glycoprotein, are relocated from the surface to internal sites in TbRAB4 mutant cells. These data indicate that TbRAB4 is important in maintenance of normal surface expression of lipid-anchored proteins, and implicate recycling pathways as factors for modulation of surface protein expression in the procyclic trypanosome. The conservation of function of Rab4 throughout eukaryotic evolution demonstrated here indicates that the Rab4-mediated trafficking pathway is an extremely ancient component of the endocytic system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Endocytosis / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology
  • Life Cycle Stages / physiology
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mutation
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / genetics
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / growth & development
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / metabolism
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / physiology*
  • rab4 GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • rab4 GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • rab4 GTP-Binding Proteins / physiology*


  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • procyclic acidic repetitive protein, Trypanosoma
  • rab4 GTP-Binding Proteins