ESCRT proteins: Double-edged regulators of cellular signaling

Bioarchitecture. 2011 Jan;1(1):45-48. doi: 10.4161/bioa.1.1.15173.


ESCRT pathway proteins play a key role in sorting ubiquitinated membrane receptors towards lysosomes providing an important mechanism for attenuating cell surface receptor signaling. However, recent studies point to a positive role of ESCRT proteins in signal transduction in multiple species studied under physiological and pathological conditions. ESCRT components such as Tsg101 and Hrs are overexpressed in human cancers and Tsg101 depletion is detrimental for cell proliferation, survival and transformed phenotype of tumor cells. However, the mechanisms underlying the positive contributions of ESCRT pathway to surface receptor signaling have remained unclear. In a recent study, we showed that Tsg101 and Vps4 are essential for translocation of active Src from endosomes to focal adhesion and invadopodia, thereby revealing a role of ESCRT pathway in promoting Src-mediated migration and invasion. We discuss the implications of these and other recent studies which together suggest a role for the ESCRT pathway in recycling of endocytic cargo proteins, aside from its role in lysosomal targeting, potentially explaining the positive roles of ESCRT proteins in signal transduction.