Rab18 promotes lipid droplet (LD) growth by tethering the ER to LDs through SNARE and NRZ interactions

J Cell Biol. 2018 Mar 5;217(3):975-995. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201704184. Epub 2018 Jan 24.


Lipid incorporation from endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to lipid droplet (LD) is important in controlling LD growth and intracellular lipid homeostasis. However, the molecular link mediating ER and LD cross talk remains elusive. Here, we identified Rab18 as an important Rab guanosine triphosphatase in controlling LD growth and maturation. Rab18 deficiency resulted in a drastically reduced number of mature LDs and decreased lipid storage, and was accompanied by increased ER stress. Rab3GAP1/2, the GEF of Rab18, promoted LD growth by activating and targeting Rab18 to LDs. LD-associated Rab18 bound specifically to the ER-associated NAG-RINT1-ZW10 (NRZ) tethering complex and their associated SNAREs (Syntaxin18, Use1, BNIP1), resulting in the recruitment of ER to LD and the formation of direct ER-LD contact. Cells with defects in the NRZ/SNARE complex function showed reduced LD growth and lipid storage. Overall, our data reveal that the Rab18-NRZ-SNARE complex is critical protein machinery for tethering ER-LD and establishing ER-LD contact to promote LD growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3-L1 Cells
  • Animals
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / genetics
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism*
  • Lipid Droplets / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • SNARE Proteins / genetics
  • SNARE Proteins / metabolism*
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • Rab18 protein, mouse
  • SNARE Proteins
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins