SNX-BAR-mediated Endosome Tubulation Is Co-Ordinated With Endosome Maturation

Traffic. 2012 Jan;13(1):94-107. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0854.2011.01297.x. Epub 2011 Oct 31.


Endosomal sorting is essential for cell homeostasis. Proteins targeted for degradation are retained in the maturing endosome vacuole while others are recycled to the cell surface or sorted to the biosynthetic pathway via tubular transport carriers. Sorting nexin (SNX) proteins containing a BAR (for Bin-Amphiphysin-Rvs) domain are key regulators of phosphoinositide-mediated, tubular-based endosomal sorting, but how such sorting is co-ordinated with endosomal maturation is not known. Here, using well-defined Rab GTPases as endosomal compartment markers, we have analyzed the localization of SNX1 [endosome-to-trans-Golgi network (TGN) transport as part of the SNX-BAR-retromer complex], SNX4 (cargo-recycling from endosomes to the plasma membrane) and SNX8 (endosomes-to-TGN trafficking in a retromer-independent manner). We show that these SNX-BARs are primarily localized to early endosomes, but display the highest frequency of tubule formation at the moment of early-to-late endosome transition: the Rab5-to-Rab7 switch. Perturbing this switch shifts SNX-BAR tubulation to early endosomes, resulting in SNX1-decorated tubules that lack retromer components VPS26 and VPS35, suggesting that both early and late endosomal characteristics of the endosome are important for SNX-BAR-retromer-tubule formation. We also establish that SNX4, but not SNX1 and SNX8, is associated with the Rab11-recycling endosomes and that a high frequency of SNX4-mediated tubule formation is observed as endosomes undergo Rab4-to-Rab11 transition. Our study therefore provides evidence for fine-tuning between the processes of endosomal maturation and the formation of endosomal tubules. As tubulation is required for SNX1-, SNX4- and SNX8-mediated sorting, these data reveal a previously unrecognized co-ordination between maturation and tubular-based sorting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biosynthetic Pathways
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Endosomes / metabolism*
  • Endosomes / ultrastructure*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Transport
  • RNA Interference
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sorting Nexins / genetics
  • Sorting Nexins / metabolism*
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • SNX1 protein, human
  • SNX4 protein, human
  • SNX8 protein, human
  • Sorting Nexins
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins