Membrane fusion in the endocytic pathway is mediated by a protein machinery consistent of Rab GTPases, tethering factors and SNAREs. In yeast, the endosomal CORVET and lysosomal HOPS tethering complexes share 4 of their 6 subunits. The 2 additional subunits in each complex - Vps3 and Vps8 for CORVET, and the homologous Vps39 and Vps41 for HOPS - bind directly to Rab5 and Rab7, respectively. In humans, all subunits for HOPS have been described. However, human CORVET remains poorly characterized and a homolog of Vps3 is still missing. Here we characterize 2 previously identified Vps39 isoforms, hVps39-1/hVam6/TLP and hVps39-2/TRAP1, in yeast and HEK293 cells. None of them can compensate the loss of the endogenous yeast Vps39, though the specific interaction of hVps39-1 with the virus-specific LT protein was reproduced. Both human Vps39 proteins show a cytosolic localization in yeast and mammalian cells. However, hVps39-2/TRAP1 strongly co-localizes with co-expressed Rab5 and interacts directly with Rab5-GTP in vitro. We conclude that hVps39-2/TRAP1 is an endosomal protein and an effector of Rab5, suggesting a role of the protein as a subunit of the putative human CORVET complex.
Keywords: CORVET; HOPS; Membrane tethering; Rab GTPases; TRAP1; Vps39; fusion.