Retromer Endosome Exit Domains Serve Multiple Trafficking Destinations and Regulate Local G Protein Activation by GPCRs

Curr Biol. 2016 Dec 5;26(23):3129-3142. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.09.052. Epub 2016 Nov 10.


Retromer mediates sequence-directed cargo exit from endosomes to support both endosome-to-Golgi (retrograde transport) and endosome-to-plasma membrane (recycling) itineraries. It is not known whether these trafficking functions require cargos to exit endosomes separately via distinct transport intermediates or whether the same retromer-coated carriers can support both itineraries. We addressed this question by comparing human Wntless (Wls) and β2 adrenergic receptor (β2AR), which require retromer physiologically for retrograde transport and recycling, respectively. We show here by direct visualization in living cells that both cargos transit primarily the same endosomes and exit via shared transport vesicles generated from a retromer-coated endosome domain. While both Wls and β2AR clearly localize to the same retromer-coated endosome domains, Wls is consistently enriched more strongly. This enrichment difference is determined by distinct motifs present in the cytoplasmic tail of each cargo, with Wls using tandem Φ-X-[L/M] motifs and β2AR using a PDZ motif. Exchanging these determinants reverses the enrichment phenotype of each cargo but does not change cargo itinerary, verifying the multifunctional nature of retromer and implying that additional sorting must occur downstream. Quantitative differences in the degree of cargo enrichment instead underlie a form of kinetic sorting that impacts the rate of cargo delivery via both itineraries and determines the ability of β2AR to activate its cognate G protein transducer locally from endosomes. We propose that mammalian retromer forms a multifunctional membrane coat that supports shared cargo exit for divergent trafficking itineraries and regulates signaling from endosomes.

Keywords: FAM21; GPCR; endocytosis; recycling; retrograde; retromer; signaling; sorting; sorting nexin 27.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Endosomes / physiology*
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Protein Transport / physiology*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / physiology*


  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • GTP-Binding Proteins