Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

M. Alejandro Barbieri

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Lou Kim

Third Advisor's Name

Lidia Kos

Fourth Advisor's Name

John Makemson

Fifth Advisor's Name

Helen Tempest


Endocytosis, Rab5, EGF-Receptor, Insulin-Receptor, Endosome Fusion

Date of Defense



The Rab family of proteins are low molecular weight GTPases that have the ability to switch between GTP- (active) and GDP- (inactive) bound form, and in that sense act as molecular switches. Through distinct localization on various vesicles and organelles and by cycling through GTP/GDP bound forms, Rabs are able to recruit and activate numerous effector proteins, both spatially and temporally, and hence behave as key regulators of trafficking in both endocytic and biosynhtetic pathways. The Rab5 protein has been shown to regulate transport from plasma membrane to the early endosome as well as activate signaling pathways from the early endosome. This dissertation focused on understanding Rab5 activation via endocytosis of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs). First, tyrosine kinase activity of RTKs was linked to endosome fusion by demonstrating that tyrosine kinase inhibitors block endosome fusion and activation of Rab5, and a constitutively active form of Rab5 is able to rescue endosome fusion. However, depending on how much ligand is available at the cell surface, the receptor-ligand complexes can be internalized via a number of distinct pathways. Similarly, Rab5 was activated in a ligand-dependent concentration dependent manner via clathrin- and caveolin-mediated pathways, as well as a pathway independent of both. However, overexpression Rabex-5, a nucleotide exchange factor for Rab5, is able to rescue activation even when all of the pathways of EGF-receptor internalization were blocked. Next, the three naturally occurring splice variants of Rabex-5 selectively activated Rab5. Lastly, Rabex-5 inhibits differentiation of 3T3-L1 and PC12 cells through 1) degradation of signaling endosome via Rab5-dependent fusion with the early endosome, 2) and inhibition of signaling cascade via ubiquitination of Ras through the ZnF domain at the N-terminus of Rabex-5.

In conclusion, these data shed light on complexity of the endosomal trafficking system where tyrosine kinase activity of the receptor is able to affect endosome fusion; how different endocytic pathways affect activation of one of the key regulators of early endocytic events; and how selective activation of Rab5 via Rabex-5 can control adipogenesis and neurogenesis.



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