Maintenance of the shape of biological tubules is critical for development and physiology of metazoan organisms. Loss of function of the Caenorhabditis elegans FGD protein EXC-5 allows large fluid-filled cysts to form in the lumen of the single-cell excretory canal tubules, while overexpression of exc-5 causes defects at the tubule's basolateral surface. We have examined the effects of altering expression levels of exc-5 on the distribution of fluorescently-marked subcellular organelles. In exc-5 mutants, early endosomes build up in the cell, especially in areas close to cysts, while recycling endosomes are depleted. Endosome morphology changes prior to cyst formation. Conversely, when exc-5 is overexpressed, recycling endosomes are enriched. Since FGD proteins activate the small GTPases CDC42 and Rac, these results support the hypothesis that EXC-5 acts through small GTPases to move material from apical early endosomes to recycling endosomes, and that loss of such movement is likely the cause of tubule deformation both in nematodes and in tissues affected by FGD dysfunction such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth Syndrome type 4H.
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