Distinct yet overlapping roles of Rab GTPases on synaptic vesicles

Small GTPases. 2011 Mar;2(2):77-81. doi: 10.4161/sgtp.2.2.15201.


Exo-endocytotic cycling of synaptic vesicles (SVs) is one of the most intensely studied membrane trafficking pathways. It is governed by sets of conserved proteins including Rab GTPases. Long considered to define the identity and composition of a subcellular organelle, it has become increasingly evident that multiple Rabs co-exist on intracellular compartments, each contributing to its membrane organization and specialised function. Indeed, we have recently demonstrated that at least 11 distinct Rab proteins co-exist on highly purified SVs. These include Rabs involved in exocytosis (Rab3a/b/c and Rab27b) and intermediates of SV recycling such as early endosomes (Rab4, Rab5, Rab10, Rab11b and Rab14). Interestingly, we found that while two of these proteins, namely Rab3a and Rab27b, exhibited differential cycling dynamics on SV membranes; they played complementary roles during Ca(2+)-triggered neurotransmitter release. The implications of these findings in the SV trafficking cycle are discussed.